Red Bull team boss Christian Horner says Mercedes used “underhand” tactics to “discredit” Max Verstappen’s 2021 title win. We respond.
Red Bull seems to be unable to stop talking about Max Verstappen’s controversial 2021 title win that came after race director Michael Masi decided to disregard the rules governing the use of the Safety Car.
Red Bull’s team boss Christian Horner has had to defend Max’s disputed title win in numerous interviews, as journalists continue to ask questions about it.
In a recent talk with the Daily Mail, Horner even went on the offensive against Mercedes, who rightfully felt wronged by Masi’s unjust decisions.
“I felt what was going on behind the scenes over the Christmas period was a bit underhand,” Horner said.
“The pressure that was put on the FIA, the positioning, the pressure that was put on the race director, to try to discredit what we had achieved. The reality was Michael Masi didn’t break their own rules.
“Mercedes had all the same strategic options available that we did, they made a mistake strategically not pitting Lewis at the virtual safety car but then expecting him to be able to defend on 44-lap-old tyres.
“He was always going to be massively exposed by the team electing to leave him out despite the fact he was questioning that call.
“The smokescreen was placed on the race director rather than the mistake Mercedes made strategically.”
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We already answered Horner’s strategy claims in a previous article, so we’re not going to go into it again, but his claim that Michael Masi did not break the rules is ridiculous, especially in light of the fact that the FIA has since removed Masi from the position of race director, as a result of the decisions he made in Abu Dhabi.
Horner then went on to detail what he believes were Mercedes’ “underhanded” tactics. For example, Toto Wolff and Lewis Hamilton refused to attend the FIA Prize-Giving Gala in December, as a reaction to what they believed were unjust decisions made by the FIA.
The team’s Chief Technical Officer James Allison, however, did attend the ceremony and accepted the Constructors’ Championship trophy.
“In the aftermath of that, there was a concerted campaign by our rivals to discredit our achievement, even to the point of the FIA prize-giving, and it is a tactic that has been employed by Mercedes in other championships as well,” Horner continued.
“As for the idea that the result was influenced by the need for entertainment over sport, I don’t agree with that, either.
“I don’t think the Drive to Survive director was sitting in race control saying, ‘We need this to finish now’.
“It has always been clear that it was never good to finish a race under a safety car and that every effort would be made to ensure that didn’t happen because it is the biggest anti-climax that sporting viewers can have.
“For us, it was always clear there was an extreme probability that the race would get restarted. “That did not have anything to do with any narrative from a TV show.
“It was the responsibility of the race director to safely get that race restarted, which he did,” the Briton concluded.
Horner has again decided to omit any fact that doesn’t fit his story. Firstly, of course ‘Drive to Survive’ producers were not telling the FIA what to do, but is it really such a stretch to think that the FIA and Formula 1 management had a general agenda to try and make things more exciting in an effort to draw in more viewers? Certainly not, and while nobody can say it’s a certainty, it is not a ludicrous argument.
Secondly, the problem is not in the fact that Masi restarted the race (although had he followed to the rules, the race would never have been restarted at that point), the problem lies in the way he did it.
He had broken rules and protocols that govern the use of the Safety Car, in order to engineer a situation where Verstappen (on fresh soft tyres) is right behind Hamilton (on old medium tyres), which led to a situation where Lewis had no chance of winning that race. We explained this in more detail here.
In the end, judging by what Horner has been saying recently, it would be better for him (and his team) to leave Abu Dhabi in the past, and refrain from giving any further comments.