Formula One has always had its on track adversaries but often the back story of the off track ‘enemies’ is even more compelling. It’s no secret that Christian Horner and Toto Wolff do not get on and in the paddock bubble that has the Netflix “drive to survive” camera’s running 24/7 the war of words between the two often hits the highs of a melodrama.
Following the disastrous outing in Azerbaijan where the Mercedes W13 bucked and bronked its way around the streets of Baku in an attempt to literally scramble Lewis Hamilton’s brain, Toto Wolff took to the high ground.
Toto Wolff slams Horner for ‘manipulation’
The Mercedes boss slammed his rival(s) aka Christian, for refusing to take the drivers’ health issues from the bouncing seriously. Wolff argued the drivers were suffering because of the car design regulations whereas Horner accused Mercedes of having a poor car design.
Following a meeting of the team bosses, Wolff came out to the press and revealed, “Team principals trying to manipulate what is being said in order to keep the competitive advantage, and trying to play political games when the FIA tries to come up with a quick solution to at least put the cars in a better position, is disingenuous.”
“This is a joint problem we are having as Formula 1… this is a design issue that needs to be solved. We have long-term effects [for the drivers] that we can’t even judge.
“But at any time this is a safety risk and then coming up with little manipulations in the background, or Chinese whispers, or briefing the drivers is just pitiful.”
Horner accuses Wolff of ‘play acting
When told of Toto’s comments, Horner responded:
“Toto is campaigning for a change in regulations -which is somewhat ironic because his car looked quite quick with not a lot of bouncing,”
“And I think it was just pointed out to him that perhaps his issues were within rather than everybody’s issue.”
Of course the Netflix camera’s were rolling and Christian decided to play to the crowd as he concluded.
“I think there was an element of theater going on in that meeting.”
“So maybe with Lewis’s new movie coming along he’s getting in role for it!”
Wolff accuses Red Bull of ‘cheating’
The war of words continued for most of the season with Toto hyping the runner in Singapore that Red Bull Racing had ‘cheated’ and gained a “massive” advantage by their breach of the cost cap.
The latest saga is also cost cap related as Christian Horner casts aspirations on Mercedes spending during the 2022 season. The Red Bull chief admits he was ‘surprised’ by the number of upgrades Mercedes brought to their car this season.
Mercedes were reliant on Red Bull and Ferrari failures at the start of the year to have any hope of a top four race finish. Yet by Brazil the W13 was the class of the field bringing home George Russell’s maiden Formula One victory.
Horner questions Mercedes integrity
Christian Horner notes, “Under the budget cap, it has been surprising just the amount of development. We have had the least crashes and a moderate amount of development,” he said.
“But it has certainly been surprising the rate they have developed, particularly in the second half of the year. But that is F1. When you consider where they were in Bahrain to where they were at the end of the year, it was a big step.”
The implication of Horner’s comments are clear. Mercedes should not have been able to bring as many upgrades to their car and remain within the budget cap is the insinuation.
The exact nature of Red Bull’s penalty
Of course Red Bull were found guilty of committing a minor breach in the 2021 cost cap of £119m. They were fined £6m and given a 10% cut in their aero testing allowance for 12 months.
This means Red Bull will have an allowance of 63% of the wind tunnel runs and of the hours they are allowed to spend on computer fluid dynamics (CFD) testing.
This will mean Red Bull have only 202 wind tunnel runs to Mercedes 256 and just 1197 hours of CFD while Mercedes retain 1520 hours.
Wolff mocks penalty
However Toto Wolff has dismissed the severity of the FIA penalties for Red Bull as ‘insignificant’. He quipped the biggest punishment was the hit on the Milton Keynes team’s integrity reputation.
When asked about the Red bull penlaty, Wolff responded ”Yes, I think it’s okay. I think the biggest penalty was not the 10 percent wind tunnel time or the seven million dollars.”
”I think the biggest penalty was the reputational hit that the team got and, in a way, it’s unfair for the Red Bull mother brand which is fantastic in their field.
War of words set for 2023
“But the racing team has just been having such a reputational hit and also the people. So I think nobody is kind of dare bringing it close to that [to the budget cap] anymore.”
On the whole given the season of dominance by the Red Bull team, Christian Horner has preferred to play out his ongoing battle with Toto from a position of graciousness, making light of matters as in the role in the Hamilton film jibe.
Yet if Mercedes were to come out of the blocks firing on all cylinders in Bahrain, we may see a more aggressive Christian Horner prepared to stand his ground and fight for every inch.
READ MORE: Mercedes to retain W13 concept
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