Mercedes vs. Red Bull tension gets boring…
Beyond a race that was not exactly a thriller, the Qatar weekend was mostly coloured by the bad feeling that continues to boil away between the top two teams. Verstappen escaped further censure over his driving tactics in defence against Hamilton in Brazil, despite Mercedes calling for his conduct to be reviewed. That was never going to improve the mood… But more seriously, Christian Horner continued his public campaign of openly accusing Mercedes of cheating over the flexibility of its rear wing. A frosty team principals’ press conference on Friday included Horner questioning Wolff over scuff marks on the wing, which he suggested was evidence of excessive flexing. The FIA has responded by revising its load tests to double-check legality – but still Mercedes has yet to fail it. And despite his bleatings, Horner has yet to lodge a protest against his rival.
The punchy team principal was also vocal following Verstappen’s yellow flag infringement, which wasn’t helped by the yellow lights system not being in operation. The FIA said it had sympathy, but still felt a penalty was justified. Horner then scored a low blow by attempting to blame a “rogue marshal” for causing confusion – you know, the volunteers who give up their time to make sure motor races can run… Horner was given a reprimand by the stewards for his comments and later apologised. But his choice of language and general behaviour at the moment leaves a bad taste, and while tension between the top teams is inevitable – not to mention part of the entertainment of top-level motor sport – this rivalry is taking some of the shine from a fantastic duel between Verstappen and Hamilton.
Horner is quite within his rights to fight Red Bull’s corner. Of course he is. But his constant use of the media to cast doubt and sow the seeds of bitterness is getting out of hand. He’d do well to tone it down and fight his battles behind the scenes when F1 heads for Saudi Arabia for the penultimate round next week. But don’t hold your breath on that one.
Images courtesy of Motorsport Images.