Christian Horner explains Red Bull’s radio messages to Michael Masi at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and adds the Australian made only one mistake.
There has been a lot of talk about Formula 1 teams’ ability to communicate directly with the race director during races in 2021.
The communication was also broadcasted to the viewers, which often made it seem that the teams were trying to sway the race director, which then led to his decisions being questioned.
Christian Horner admits he is also at fault for allowing things to get out of hand.
“I was probably guilty, because I was pushing for it within the strategy meetings and commission meetings to say that ‘There’s an awful lot of intercom that goes on, that I think the spectators should be aware of’,” the Briton said on F1’s Beyond the Grid podcast.
“That’s mainly between the team managers and the referee, and, the result of that is that hopefully, he may get less of it, but I think it’d be a fascinating exchange, because the team manager is only going to call up the race director if they feel they’ve got something really strong to argue they’re not going to bitch about something that’s fairly trivial.
“And it was in Barcelona that Sunday, I hear they broadcast Toto on the phone to Michael, I thought: ‘That’s a bit strange. I never had a one to one channel, it always been sent it through our team manager.’
“After that race, I think we should have said: ‘Right, you know what, there should only be one communication between the race director and team managers.’
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“At that point, the competitiveness, you become so driven, that it’s only natural, you’re going to do the best that you can for your team.”
Well, in the final moments of the controversial 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, during the Safety Car period, Red Bull’s team manager Jonathan Wheatley attempted to influence race director (at the time) Michael Masi, which led to Masi basically doing exactly what Red Bull wanted.
“Those lapped cars, you don’t need to let them go right the way around and catch up with the back of the pack,” Wheatley said.
“You only need to let them go, and then we’ve got a motor race on our hands,” he concluded.
What Wheatley was suggesting was also against the rules, as all lapped cars needed to be let through before the race could be restarted at the end of the following lap.
Masi, as is now well known, only allowed the lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to unlap themselves, and then restarted the race immediately on the following lap, breaking two rules in the process.
When Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff told Masi over the radio that this was “not right”, the Australian responded by using Wheatley’s words: “Toto, it’s called a motor race, OK?”
Well, Horner now says there was nothing problematic about this whole exchange.
“I guess that came to no greater head in Abu Dhabi, where Toto at several points during the race was trying to not get a Safety Car, they didn’t want us trying to steer the course of the race.
“As soon as you hear that, because I get that transmission, my immediate reaction is, defence.
“I want to make sure my best form of defence is attack to say because the worst thing is last person in somebody’s ear has the greatest influence.
“I think that the key factor was [Nicholas] Latifi crashing, and there being a relatively straightforward Safety Car with an amount of laps left, with a priority of being let’s get the race going again.
“The only mistake made was not to let the two final cars unlap themselves – it would not have made an ounce of difference, the outcome would have been identical to what happened.”
Of course, Horner is completely wrong here – Masi made two “mistakes”. The first one was that he did not allow all the cars to unlap themselves, and the second one was that he did not allow for one extra lap uner the Safety Car, so that these cars could catch up to the pack.
Had he followed the rules, and done both of these things, the race would have ended under the Safety Car, and Lewis Hamilton would have been crowned the world champion.