Tensions between Mercedes, Red Bull increase over F1 title: ‘Gloves no more’
Mercedes F1by Toto Wolff and Red bull Christian Horner at press conference before F1 grand opening of Qatar. (Beautiful pictures)
LASAIL, Qatar – The most dramatic Formula One title battle in at least a decade turned even more intense on Friday as Christian Horner and Toto Wolff traded prongs at the same time. FIA refuse Mercedes‘right to appeal last week’s non-punishment against championship leader Max Verstappen.
Wolff, the head of Mercedes, and Red Bull’s Horner principle sat side by side during a tense 30-minute media press conference that made clear the animosity between the two teams.
“It was the world championship of the highest category in motorsport, and what started when Olympic boxing turned to professional boxing and now MMA,” says Wolff. The use of elbows is now allowed as the rules have stated so and gloves are not allowed. Nothing else is expected. ”
This week, F1 has moved to Losail for the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix with the results of last week’s race still hanging over the championship fight. Lewis Hamilton claimed his 101st win at the Brazilian GP to cut his deficit against Verstappen to just 14 points with three races remaining.
Mercedes protested its decision not to penalize Verstappen in Sao Paulo when the Red Bull driver deviated from Hamilton as the seven-time champion struggled to push ahead to take the lead. The FIA heard the appeal on Thursday and then denied Mercedes’ request while Horner and Wolff were in the middle of Friday’s briefing.
Horner shrugged at Wolff, declaring “no relation” between the two. He also suggested that the Mercedes team could be fractured as Red Bull tries to end his reign at the top of the series.
“I think this is their first time being challenged. It’s been interesting to see how people react under pressure, how they react when faced with challenges,” Horner said. “By far, it’s been the fiercest political title fight we’ve been involved in in the sport.”
Not having a relationship is one thing. But respect?
Horner said he appreciates what Mercedes has achieved. Hamilton too, who can pass Michael Schumacher with a record eight championships if he can catch Verstappen in the next three races.
“But I don’t need to go to dinner with Toto. I don’t need to kiss (butt) him or anything like that. There might be some other grouping principle,” Horner said. “Toto and I are very different characters and we operate in very different ways. Am I going to spend Christmas with Toto? Sure is not.”
Is there any chance for peace between the warring teams? Wolff thinks not.
“I think the competition is too high,” says Wolff, “You can’t expect that you’re going to have dinner with your opponent or with a rival team or your enemy in a sports competition, regardless of personality. and character.”
On the track, meanwhile, Verstappen came out on top in the first practice session and appeared quite comfortable on the 5.4-kilometer (3.5-mile) track. Mercedes’ Valterri Bottas was the fastest in the second race.
Hamilton finished fourth in both sessions.
Verstappen won the top nine races of his career this season to put Hamilton on charge for the first time since 2016, when his then-teammate Nico Rosberg trailed him by five points to take the title. Hamilton has won four championships in a row since losing to Rosberg.
Mercedes and Red Bull participated in all seasons – a collision between drivers on the first lap of the British Grand Prix send Verstappen to the hospital, and an accident between the two at Monza resulted in Verstappen’s car landing on top of Hamilton’s head.
But it has reached another level in Brazil. Mercedes was found to have an unauthorized wing on Hamilton’s car, and Verstappen was caught in video taken from the stands illegally touching the part after practice.
Drama built throughout the weekend and when Verstappen was not penalized for running Hamilton wide, Mercedes erupted. Although Hamilton won the race, Mercedes opposed the ban in the hope that Verstappen would be penalized retroactively. If the rally is successful, Verstappen will be fined a period that will knock him out from second to third at the Brazilian GP and further tighten the title race.
Wolff said the ruling was “totally expected.”
“We wanted to trigger discussion around it because it will likely be a topic,” says Wolff. “We don’t think it will go any further.”
Horner called it the right decision.
“Otherwise, it opens a Pandora’s box regarding a bunch of other incidents that happened during that race,” Horner said. “I think the most important thing right now is to focus on this Grand Prix. We want the fight to be fair.”
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