Red Bull team principal Christian Horner voiced further doubts about the legality of the Mercedes car while stating he has no relationship with Toto Wolff ahead of the Qatar Grand Prix.
The two teams have been fighting for both championships all season long, with Max Verstappen currently leading Lewis Hamilton by 14 points in the drivers’ standings. While Wolff said “f**k them all” to Hamilton over team radio after his recovery drive from 20th to fifth in the sprint a week ago, Horner continues to raise questions about the performance of the Mercedes and its rear wing in particular.
“There is no relationship, there is a competition,” Horner said. “Interesting to hear Toto’s views after the sprint race last weekend on his team radio. We will push to the maximum, we worked hard to get into this position, it’s the first time they’ve been challenged. It’s interesting to see how people, react under pressure, when they’re challenged.
“It’s by far the most intense political title fight we’ve been involved in in our time in the sport. Does our car comply with the rule? Absolutely. Do we have concerns over the gains in straight-line speed we’ve seen since Budapest but really have been exponential in the last couple of races? Absolutely.
“Do we expect the FIA as the scrutineer and the policemen of the sport to ensure all the cars are compliant? The rules are a complex set of regulations so we rely very, very heavily on the FIA to ensure it is absolutely scrupulously fair, as what we absolutely want going into these last three races is a fair fight — whoever comes out at the end of this on top, it shouldn’t be in a stewards room or a court of appeal, it needs to be done on track.
“We want to ensure these cars are being scrupulously policed and are in full compliance as there’s too much at stake. You have two teams and drivers fighting for the biggest prize in sport and you want to make sure the playing field is level.”
Horner also stopped short of saying he respects Wolff, instead pointing to the team as a whole and Hamilton, while explaining why he feels no need to have a good relationship with his counterpart.
“I think relationship and respect are two different things. Of course there’s respect for everything Mercedes has done and there’s respect for everything Lewis Hamilton has done, but I don’t need to go to dinner with Toto or kiss his arse or anything like that.
“There’s a few other team principals that might but from my perspective it’s a competition and I think it’s great that we’re in this position and fighting for the world championships, and it’s a first time in seven years they’ve been challenged, so that intensifies it and I think the sport is a big winner out of this. I just hope we have a hard and fair fight between now and the end of the season.”
With Horner continuing to question the car’s legality, Wolff — sitting alongside him during the team principals’ media conference — reiterated that the Mercedes conforms with the regulations.
“I’ve always said that is how you fight, you’re trying to avoid that a competitor has an advantage,” Wolff said. “If you’re left by skepticism because someone told you something and you expect that to be the root cause, you should go for it.
“We’ve said that we’ve been controlled 14 times on this very special, this very particular rear wing — the FIA has all drawings about it. There is no such thing as Red Bull expects there to be, so we are happy to send it, cut it — I can send you one to Milton Keynes…”
Horner then asked: “So how do you explain the score marks on the rear wing endplate?”
To which Wolff replied: “I think it’s within what is allowed, and therefore that’s OK.”