Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes Mercedes has attempted to put added pressure on Max Verstappen this season, ahead of the championship-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Verstappen has led the majority of the championship but a run of three consecutive race victories for Lewis Hamilton left the pair heading into the final race level on points. After the defending champion described Verstappen as “f***ing crazy” during the last race in Saudi Arabia, Horner claims comments from Hamilton and the sway he believes Mercedes has over media has led to a narrative against Verstappen.
“Lewis is a seven-time world champion, he’s the most successful driver of all time, he has a standing obviously within the sport and what he says carries a lot of weight,” Horner said. “I think he has used every tool available to him to put Max under pressure this year. He’s a competitive animal — you don’t become a seven-time world champion by not being a competitor like he is.
“Yes, I believe — and backed up by the Mercedes media machine — a huge amount of pressure has been placed on Max. What you’ve got to remember with Max is he’s just a young lad. He’s a 24-year-old who drives with bravery, with passion, with skill, with determination, and he’s just a guy living his dream, doing his job.
“And he’s up against not only Lewis but a huge machine in Mercedes-Benz. I think all credit to him the way he’s handled that pressure this year and hasn’t been drawn into it, hasn’t been sucked into it — he’s just gone about his business and he hasn’t changed from Bahrain to Saudi, his approach or how he goes racing.”
When it was put to him that Red Bull is a major global brand too, Horner dismissed the comparison.
“Well not really — if you think of the size of Mercedes globally they must be one of the biggest automotive companies in the world. The power that they wield with media around the world, I think we pale into insignificance in comparison. As Lewis Hamilton indeed called us, we’re just an energy drinks company going racing.
“So no, I think that Mercedes — Mercedes Formula 1 Team — have become a machine over the last seven or eight years during their period of dominance and obviously have the weight and power of the parent company behind them, because I can’t believe it’s particularly comfortable being beaten by an energy drinks manufacturer as a major OEM. That’s never sat comfortably, we know that — it’s been made quite clear to us.
“We’re a team of racers, we’re going racing, we’ve got a phenomenal driver who has driven his heart out this year, and it’s been intense on track and off track. I do think that the spotlight, even the narrative of this last week of this ‘Mad Max’ scenario, calling him crazy — there’s been a very clear narrative.”