Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes Mercedes threw chief strategist James Vowles “under the bus” when he was broadcast on team radio taking the blame for an error in the Austrian Grand Prix.
With Mercedes having failed to pit leader Lewis Hamilton during a Virtual Safety Car period, Vowles was heard taking responsibility for the mistake as Hamilton dropped back to fourth place. At the time Hamilton said the team had thrown away a win — something Vowles responded to by saying it was his fault — before he later retired and lost the championship lead to Sebastian Vettel.
“Every driver is different, and I’ve never worked with Lewis so I don’t know what makes him tick and what doesn’t, but it seems a fairly bizarre thing for someone to need to do, to throw themselves under the bus to motivate a driver to go from fourth back into the lead,” said Horner (pictured at left, above, with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff).
“I think that obviously Mercedes has got so used to being at the front, qualifying on the front row first and second and any race that they are not on the podium is disastrous. It becomes very easy to become complacent with that and of course it is an adjustment — as we went through from 2013 into 2014 — when that isn’t happening week in, week out and you are having to fight and having to scrap. That was an adjustment that certainly Sebastian [Vettel] had to go through.
“I think it’s healthy for Formula 1 that there’s six drivers, or at least five, going into most grands prix now with a chance of winning.”
Horner insists he would not have taken a similar approach to Mercedes if in the same position, saying it is unfair to overly highlight one person’s influence in any situation.
“It’s quite difficult without knowing the intricacies of other teams, but the one thing you have to do as a team is win as a team and lose as a team and that’s why we don’t often — or hardly at all — in success or failure talk about individuals, because that puts an unfair amount of scrutiny and pressure on that individual.
“So certainly our philosophy is that, as a team, it’s collective responsibility rather than an individual’s. Of course there has to be accountability, but that’s something that’s dealt with in the right environment behind closed doors, not in a public forum.
“It’s not the way I operate. My view in my role as team principal of this team is that you are here to protect your workforce, to make sure they are represented in the best possible way — and that’s on the good days and the bad days.”