McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl says that there was no plan for Lando Norris to purposefully hold up Max Verstappen in qualifying to help protect Mercedes’ drivers as suggested by Red Bull motorsport boss Helmut Marko.
Marko inferred in an interview with Austrian broadcaster Servus TV that a message from the McLaren pitwall in Q3 asking Norris not to do the fast-approaching Verstappen “any favours” was a ploy destined to impede the Dutchman in his efforts to beat his Mercedes rivals.
At the time, Verstappen was on his final flyer in Q3, having seen his previous fastest lap – which would have been good enough for pole – deleted for exceeding track limits at Turn 4.
A sarcastic Marko reacted to the message from McLaren, saying that it was “very sporting of the Mercedes team”, suggesting that the Woking-based outfit was in fact defending the interests of its engine partner.
“Of course it’s frustrating when you set the fastest time,” Marko told Servus TV. “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.”
McLaren team boss Andreas Seidl explained the reason for the message but was unimpressed woth Marko’s silly insinuation.
“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,” said Seidl.
“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 laptime 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.”
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Norris was at a loss to understand Marko’s comment, having gone out of his way to avoid impeding Verstappen.
“I’ve no idea what I did wrong,” said the Briton who qualified seventh in Saturday’s shootout.