F1 Austrian GP 2024 Preview: Max Verstappen, Lando Norris Rivalry At Red Bull Home Circuit

Max Verstappen is still on top with seven wins in 10 races in 2024, but the field is giving him more of a fight.

X | F1
Max Verstappen and Lando Norris at the Red Bull Ring in Speilberg during the Austrian Grand Prix Free Practise session. Photo: X | F1

Lando Norris has closed the speed gap to Max Verstappen and will now try to beat the Formula One ace on Red Bull's home track. (Streaming | More Motorsport News)

Norris has steered his McLaren to consecutive runner-up finishes behind the defending champion. This weekend he faces the challenge of trying to edge Verstappen at the Red Bull Ring, where the Dutch driver has won four of the last six races. Red Bull is based in Britain but holds an Austrian license.

Verstappen cruised to a third consecutive title last year by winning 19 of 23 races, while his Red Bull partner Sergio Pérez gobbled up another two, leaving just Ferrari's Carlos Sainz as the only other driver to savor a victory.

Verstappen is still on top with seven wins in 10 races in 2024, but the field is giving him more of a fight.

Norris has emerged as his No. 1 challenger ever since the 24-year-old British driver recorded his first career victory in Miami in May. Verstappen had started that race from pole but made a costly mistake when he hit a chicane and had to pit.

Norris finished second to Verstappen in Montreal three weeks ago and then followed that up with a very strong weekend at the Spanish GP last weekend. Norris edged Verstappen for pole position in qualifying, and then lamented a poor start that he believed cost him a victory in Barcelona.

Verstappen recognized that McLaren was, at least for now, better in some areas, especially in making their tires last.

“McLaren at the moment are just very solid,” Verstappen said Thursday. “They're good everywhere, every single track.

“Also I think you could see in Barcelona, they were very good on their tires. They could just push more on them compared to everyone else on the grid ... Lando was definitely catching up a lot.”

Norris has moved into second place in the drivers' standings at 69 points behind Verstappen. Ferrari's Charles Leclerc is two points behind Norris in third.

In Spain, Norris was convinced that his car was the fastest — he picked up a point for the quickest race lap — and that his mistake at the race start when he was passed by both Verstappen and Mercedes' George Russell condemned him to a second-place finish.

He said Thursday that to get that edge over a poised champion like Verstappen, he will need a “perfect” race.

“We're on a level now where everything has to be perfect,” Norris said ahead of the Austrian GP. “We're against one of the best drivers ever in Formula 1, who's performing at an incredibly high level, and anything that wasn't perfect, like my start last weekend, you pay the price for. Simple as that.”

Mercedes is also aiming to stay in the thick of it after finished third and fourth in both Montreal and Barcelona.

Lewis Hamilton won his first podium of the season — his last with Mercedes before he joins Ferrari next year — last weekend.

Ferrari, for its part, hopes to bounce back from a dip in form since Leclerc won on the slow Monaco track.

Austrian Grand Prix: Inside The Lines

The novelty of this year's race are the track changes to help avoid the penalties stewards handed out for drivers who drove outside the track limits in 2023. A track limit is violated when all four wheels of a car go outside the white line bordering the track.

To try to encourage drivers to keep inside the lines, FIA has added a gravel strip beyond the curb of the particularly troublesome Turns 9 and 10. They also moved the white line on Turn 4.

The Austrian GP is the third of six races this year that includes a sprint race. The sprint race is held on Saturday before qualifying. It is a short race of 100 kms, about a third of the distance of a grand prix, with eight points going to the winner, seven to second place, and so on down for the top eight finishers. (AP) DDV