until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

‘Respect’ and a joke – Wolff’s response to Horner claims

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
2 min read

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has shrugged off critical comments from Red Bull counterpart Christian Horner ahead of the Formula 1 title decider.

Verstappen leads the championship on countback with just one race remaining, level with Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton.

In the build-up to the season finale in Abu Dhabi, Red Bull team principal Horner has made repeated claims about the quality of Verstappen’s season, implied Red Bull is an underdog compared to Mercedes and said that Hamilton “backed up by the Mercedes media machine” has piled the pressure on Verstappen.

“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,” said Horner.

“We pale into insignificance in comparison. As Lewis Hamilton indeed called us, we’re just an energy drinks company going racing.”

That was a reference to something Hamilton said back in 2011, and Wolff has sought to dismiss that characterisation and insist Mercedes respects Red Bull Racing.

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

“I don’t know where that comes from but it’s not something I said and I would not say it because I have all the respect for Red Bull as a drinks company and all the respect for the racing team,” said Wolff after Verstappen scored pole position for the final race.

“And that’s why I reached out to him because I think we should be going into the race without any animosity.

“They were the quicker car, absolutely take that on the chin for all of us. It’s 1-0 for them but let’s see what it is tomorrow.”

But another Horner accusation – that Mercedes has driven “a very clear narrative” that paints Verstappen in a negative light – was met with a lighter response.

Verstappen was criticised after receiving multiple punishments during last week’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and several drivers said he was in the wrong for a recent incident in Brazil as well.

“In Austria, there is a joke about ghost drivers [someone driving in the wrong direction],” Wolff said.

“The radio gives a warning and says ‘attention on Highway 2, there is a ghost driver’.

“The guy who drives in the opposite direction says: ‘One? There’s hundreds of them!’”

The implication was clear, that Horner stands alone with his opinion.

“So I think it’s the media machine,” Wolff said. “Or it’s everybody who commented on the driving, it was pretty much the same opinion.”

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