McLaren denies Norris held up Verstappen on purpose in qualifying

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Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko spoke out after qualifying at Portimao suggesting that there could have been an ulterior motive to Norris being told on team radio not to do Verstappen any favours.

Speaking to Austrian channel Servus TV, Marko said Red Bull had noted the radio message – and hinted at it being a ploy by McLaren to help boost engine partner Mercedes.

Looking at the way Verstappen had missed out on pole, Marko said: “Of course it’s frustrating when you set the fastest time. But in Turn 4 [on his first run] he got a gust of wind from behind and it took him out. He lost time because of it, not gained.

“Then on the second run, Lando Norris got told not to do Max any favours. Very sporting of the Mercedes squad. And then with [Seb] Vettel, of course, he was busy with the car, that he keeps it on the road. It was a bit unfortunate.”

But McLaren insists that it did nothing wrong, and was clear that it was simply making sure rivals did not gain any benefit from the slipstream.

Team principal Andreas Seidl said: “First of all, we have to make it clear, we drive for ourselves and not for anyone else. Our aim is to finish as high up as possible with our two cars.

“I guess it’s normal that, like everyone is doing, and Max was no different, you don’t want to give anyone a tow, because it’s a benefit for the other car.

“Qualifying is about doing the lap time yourself without the help of anyone else. And I think this radio call probably they are referring to… when you look at what everyone did on the main straight, after finishing the lap, you just tried to get out of the way, out of the slipstream, to make sure that everyone can do his lap himself, and without additional help.”

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Norris himself said he interpreted the radio message to mean that he should not assist Verstappen by giving him a good tow during the lap.

“I’ve no idea what I did wrong,” said Norris when asked about Verstappen’s complaints. “I was sure I was quite far ahead of him and then, when I let him pass, I was completely on the right, on like the opposite side of the track, in second gear as slow as I can go.

“So I tried the best I could to get out of the way from him. I didn’t want to impede him or anything like that. But I’ve not heard or seen what’s been said. I didn’t block him or do anything like that. I was never that close.”

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