Christian Horner believes his Formula One Red Bull team are perceived as “the bad guys” at times. Whilst proud of his contribution to Formula One and his team’s work in the local community, the Red Bull boss rues the lack of connection at times with the British F1 audience.
It would be different he speculates “if we had a British driver like a certain team in Brackley. We are too easily seen as the bad guys.”
Red Bull fail to connect with British F1 audience
Of course much of the antipathy felt towards Red Bull can be traced back to the Abu Dhabi season finale of the 2021 season. British driver Lewis Hamilton was set to break Michael Schumacher’s record of 7 F1 drivers’ titles and led the race when a late safety car saw Red Bull roll the dice.
Gambling on a restart they pitted Verstappen in P2 for fresh rubber while Mercedes left Hamilton out for track position. The race did restart in controversial circumstances but Verstappen on new tyres passed Hamilton taking the race win and his first world F1 championship.
Horner also reveals last seasons controversy over the inaugural cost cap was seized on as an opportunity to stir up anti Red Bull feelings by one in particular ‘underhand’ rival.
Conspired F1 cost cap controversy
Red Bull were the only team who had not participated in the FIA’s cost cap dry run the season before, where the F1 teams were encouraged to submit their final coal returns as part of a learning process.
The crux of Red Bull’s cost cap breach was improper categorisation of certain costs which once submitted they were not permitted to alter. This together with an irregular accounting procedure used for a tax rebate meant the team had breached the $145m budget cap by just 0.36%.
Outside the Formula One bubble this overspend amount would be perceived so minuscule it would barely raise a single hair of the eyebrow of an interested onlooker.
rumours stoked before facts revealed
However, Red Bull were castigated as having cheated their way to title and even employees of the team claimed their children had been bullied at school.
The F1 furore was initially stoked by Toto Wolff of Mercedes based on the mere paddock rumour in Singapore that Red Bull was in breach of the finance regulations.
The Mercedes boss talked of one team being “massively over” the budget cap without mentioning Red Bull by name.
However in a parallel accusation he suggested Red Bull had been invested by the FIA for “weeks and months,” clearly identifying who he claimed had “massively” overspent.
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Wolff claims Red Bull partners also damaged
The FIA took a full two weeks further before announcing the results of their audit. A fine of $7m was levied against the Milton Keynes team together with a penalty of a 10% reduction in aero testing allowances for 12 months.
When asked for his opinion on the FIA’s penalty, Wolff’s rhetoric was more considered.
“I think what you see is that beyond the sporting penalty and the financial fine there’s also a reputational damage and in a world of transparency and good governance that’s just not on anymore,” Wolff opined to Sky F1.
Interestingly Toto continued to elaborate the potential effect of such “reputational damage” making the point that commercial partners may be tainted too.
“And compliance-wise, in whatever team you are, you’re responsible for representing a brand, your employees, your partners, and that’s why for us it wouldn’t be a business case.”
Horner claims RBR partners were contacted
Horner now reveals the toxic commentary over the alleged ‘material breach of financial standards’ was used by a competitor F1 team to court their sponsors.
“It tainted us. These things get used by your rivals.
“We had one of them contacting our sponsors and partners making suggestions that we would be bringing their brands into disrepute.”
“That was just underhand.”
Mercedes the ‘underhand’ rival
It’s no great leap of deductive prowess to realise Horner is accusing Wolff and Mercedes of being the “underhand” rival.
Horner also believes it won’t be long before others are protesting elements of the RB19 car which so far is proving to be the dominant force amongst the field of 2023 F1 competitors.
“There is always something, always a technical directive that drops, a game changer.
Others “scheming” to slow Red Bull down
“You can guarantee that the others will be scheming, ‘how can we slow them down’.
“It’s part of the game. Having lived through it before you become more seasoned in how to ride it out.”
Interestingly, Red Bull believes they’d missed a trick and Mercedes had pulled a blinder when the new ground effect based cars were revealed at the start of the 2022 season.
“The expectation coming into ‘22 with the biggest chassis regulation change in probably 30 years was actually pretty modest.
Mercedes design led to “dead end street”
“Mercedes turned up with a car that looked unlike any others. And you think have we missed the target here?
“They have seen something in the regulations that we haven’t. Is this going to embarrass us?”
Of course it was Newey and Red Bull who had nailed the brief and Mercedes all new Technical Director, Mike Elliot and his team, who had got it wrong and are now back pedalling quickly from what Wolff described last time out in Jeddah as a “dead end street.”
READ MORE: Mercedes FIA petition backfires spectacularly
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