until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

Red Bull never saw Mercedes’ appeal as a ‘threat’ to title

by Edd Straw
5 min read

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner and newly-crowned Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen have spoken publicly for the first time since Mercedes decided not to proceed with its Abu Dhabi Grand Prix appeal, with both insisting they never felt any “threat” from the possible process.

During the world champions’ press conference at the FIA Prize Giving Ceremony in Paris, which took place on the same day Mercedes announced it was withdrawing its appeal, both shrugged off any concerns.

Dec 16 : Why Mercedes dropped its appeal

Verstappen was the only F1 driver to particpate, with Lewis Hamilton declining to attent. The FIA said that Valtteri Bottas, who finished third in the championship, was unable to appear because of a flight delay after visiting the Hinwil headquarters of his new team Alfa Romeo.

As well as dismissing the threat posed by a potential appeal, Horner suggested that the opportunity presented to Verstappen by the safety car and restart procedure late in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix made up for bad luck earlier in the season.

“We didn’t really feel that there was there was the grounds for a threat,” said Horner

“We were in front of the stewards for quite a while and obviously there was a great deal of discussion over what happened, but safety cars are usual in Formula 1 and we’ve seen it throughout this season.

“And obviously the determination of the race director is always to get the race going again and that’s been a clear mandate for many, many years now. A lot was made of it but that’s the way it is.

“We’ve had so many decisions go against us. Some of those decisions in Saudi Arabia had gone against us.

“We felt that we’d had bad luck, for example, in Imola. Lewis is in the gravel trap, a lap down and his team-mate crashes with a Williams, [Hamilton] gets a lap back and he finishes second.

“The crash at Silverstone – red flag and he gets a penalty, but he still wins the race.

“So we felt that many things have gone against us this year. But things have a habit of working themselves out and balancing themselves over the course of the year.

F1 World Champion Max Verstappen Celebrates At Red Bull Racing Factory

“I said on the commentary on the pitwall that the championship looked like it was gone.

“Lewis and Mercedes had the quicker package in Abu Dhabi and it was going to take something from the racing gods.

“I’m quite pleased I’ve got a direct line now. We’re not talking to Michael [Masi, FIA race director, who Ross Brawn has said team bosses will not be able to communicate with during races from now on] in future, so maybe I’ll keep using that line [to the gods].”

Verstappen said that he was “not really” concerned about the threat from the protest or subsequent appeal as he knew that “nobody could take it away from us”.

He said that he hadn’t thought about the possible appeal a great deal since celebrating his title victory on Sunday, although he was happy when he heard the matter had been dropped.

“In Abu Dhabi there were two protests against us and it was a little bit of a longer wait, but nevertheless we were still celebrating,” said Verstappen.

“Then, once there was the all clear on the night we had another celebration. So basically we had a double celebration.

“Since then, I haven’t really thought about it too much.

“And then, of course, this morning when I heard the news I was happy about it but I also expected it.”

While the FIA said in a statement issued yesterday that F1 was “tarnished” by the reaction to the controversial ending of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Horner said Verstappen’s title wasn’t overshadowed by the way it was sealed.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Race Day Abu Dhabi, Uae

The FIA has promised a “a detailed analysis and clarification exercise” investigating how the closing stages of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix played out.

“People in this business have very short memories,” said Horner.

“We have forgotten what’s happened earlier this year, it’s been such a long racing season.

“I think that Max is absolutely the deserving world champion when you look at the championship as a whole.

“Of course, the events on Sunday have drawn an awful lot of comments but it happens in sport.

“And I think that we’ve had a lot of bad luck this year.

“We got fortunate with a safety car, we made the right strategic calls, we won the race. Great strategy, great teamwork, great execution by Max and time will move on.

“Max is a very, very deserving world champion, and we’re incredibly proud of that. And the history books will always show that he is the 2021 world champion.”

On the possibility of improvements to the rules in F1 emerging from the FIA’s process, Verstappen said that he has generally enjoyed a good relationship with the stewards.

F1 World Champion Max Verstappen Celebrates At Red Bull Racing Factory

But he believes there’s always value in finding ways to improve.

“I was sometimes not agreeing with what happened in the race, but I think that’s quite normal,” said Verstappen.

“You have that in your relationship – sometimes you don’t agree with things.

“Throughout the whole year, maybe it didn’t look like it, but I always had a very good relationship with the stewards and when we’re in there, sometimes it’s a tough call.

“I also got invited in 2019 to spend two days with the FIA and spent a bit of time with the stewards as well. Sometimes for them it’s very hard to make decisions and they have to follow the rules.

“I think it’s good that you can talk about it and as a driver, when I look at myself, every single year I also look at what can I do better.

“And I think everyone should be like that every single year, to look into the year after and say what can we do better?”

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