Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris have disagreed with each other over McLaren’s theory that the FIA’s failure to punish Max Verstappen “properly” in 2021 has emboldened the Red Bull driver to race aggressively in F1.

Verstappen and Norris came to blows while duelling for the lead in the closing laps of last weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix, with both drivers suffering punctures in the incident at Turn 3 on Lap 64 of 71.

Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris at odds over Max Verstappen theory

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher and Sam Cooper

That incident opened the door for Norris’s compatriot George Russell to collect Mercedes’ first F1 victory since the penultimate race of the 2022 season in Brazil.

Andrea Stella, the McLaren team principal, was firm on the matter and claimed the FIA’s failure to punish Verstappen “properly” after a series of incidents with Hamilton in 2021 had emboldened the Red Bull driver to race with such aggression.

Verstappen and Hamilton collided on a number of occasions during a bitter 2021 title battle, most memorably at Silverstone – the home of this weekend’s British Grand Prix – where first-lap contact at the infamous Copse corner resulted in the Red Bull driver being taken to hospital for precautionary checks.

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Hamilton overcame a 10-second time penalty for causing a collision – the same punishment Verstappen received following his clash with Norris in Austria – to win the race, with members of Red Bull’s hierarchy calling for the seven-time World Champion to be banned in the aftermath.

Stella told Sky F1: “I see that the entire population in the world knows who is responsible except for a group of people [Red Bull]

“But the problem behind it is that if you don’t address these things, honestly, they will come back.

“They have come back today because they were not addressed properly in the past when there were some fights with Lewis. That needed to be punished in a harsher way like this. You learn how to race in a certain way, which we can consider fair and square.

“[There have been] many episodes. The fact is that we have so much respect for Red Bull, so much respect for Max. They don’t need to do this. They don’t need to do this as a way to almost compromise your reputation. Why would you do that?”

Stella’s theory was put to Hamilton in Thursday’s drivers’ press conference at Silverstone, with the Mercedes driver revealing that he disagreed with the McLaren boss’s stance.

Hamilton told media including PlanetF1.com: “I don’t agree with that, no. No. That’s my answer.

Asked to elaborate, he added: “I just don’t agree with it.”

The same question was put to Norris, who remarked that Hamilton – who remains without a race victory since the penultimate race of 2021 in Saudi Arabia, which came seven days before he was dethroned by Verstappen at the highly controversial season finale in Abu Dhabi – would have agreed with Stella’s remarks “two or three years ago.”

Norris said: “I’m sure Lewis would have agreed with it two or three years ago, 100 per cent.

“And there are definitely certain things, there are definitely a few moments especially, but on the whole…

“I am always going to stand up for what Andrea said. I think Andrea’s got a very good amount of sensibility with how he talks and things he talks about.

“So definitely I think certain parts are true. And I do agree with Andrea, but certain things are always different.

“I think when you’re a little bit in the moment and of itself.

“And I think just clarification of how he says things, because there’s always certain things with how you pronounce things and stuff that might change too, but on the whole I agree with what Andrea says.”

Norris’s comments came after he appeared to backtrack on his call for Verstappen to apologise after the race in Austria, where he claimed he would lose respect for the three-time World Champion if he did not accept the blame.

Norris said: “Honestly, I don’t think he needed to apologise. I think some of the things I said in the [media] pen after the race were just more because I was frustrated at the time.

“A lot of adrenaline, a lot of emotions, I probably said some things I didn’t necessarily believe especially later on in the week.

“So he doesn’t need to. I don’t expect an apology from him. I don’t think he should apologise.

“I thought as a review it was good racing, at times close to the edge.

“But we’ve spoken about it and we are both happy to go racing again.”

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