Red Bull responds to Mercedes accusations

“They could have won, but we’re bluffing?” says Horner as he counters Russell’s “embarrassing” accusation when describing the Red Bull pace advantage over the Formula 1 field.

Is Red Bull bluffing to deliberately disguise its dominance in the 2023 Formula One season? That’s the view of Mercedes driver George Russell, who believes the Bulls’ lead is even bigger than it appears: “For sure they’re holding back,” Russell tells the BBC’s Chequered Flag podcast.


“I think they’re almost embarrassed to show their full potential because the quicker they seem, the more the sport will try to keep them in check somehow,” said the British driver, who believes Red Bull currently have a seven-tenths of a second lead – at least that’s his estimate.

After all, “Max has no reason to push, and neither does Red Bull.”

George Russell claims Red Bull are ‘sandbagging’ their performances now, deliberately slowing down and not getting too far ahead of the field. The British driver was on the BBC’s Chequered Flag podcast saying: “Certainly they’re holding back.”

The team mate to Lewis Hamilton suggesting that the FIA and Formula 1 management could seek to alter the rules to rein in the Red Bull dominance. 


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Horner responds to Russell

These statements do not go down well with Red Bull team boss Christian Horner. After the weekend in Melbourne, Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff had said that George Russell had a good chance of winning the race at Albert Park without the first red flag and his technical retirement.

That doesn’t add up for Horner: “So, they could have won, but we’re bluffing? Okay…”


To be fair, Russell’s statements were made before the Melbourne weekend. The last impression before that was the race in Saudi Arabia, where Max Verstappen had no trouble moving up from 15th on the grid to second within half a race, where he engaged in a virtual battle with team-mate Sergio Perez.

Only the team knows how strong the Red Bulls really were there, because they instructed their two drivers to set lap times, even if they repeatedly fell short of them.



Pot Kettle Black?

Asked about Russell’s statements after Saudi Arabia, Horner calls them “very generous” from the British man.

“I mean, his team knows about such advantages, after all,” said Horner, in a rather roundabout way of saying it’s like the pot calling the kettle black, a statement of hypocrisy.


But the fact that his drivers would not always set the best lap time is logical to him, after all they would have to do tyre management – especially in a race where a safety car triggered an earlier tyre change so that the drivers had to go through with one set of tyres from lap 18 of 50.

“Checo certainly didn’t cruise and hold back seven tenths of a second because he didn’t want to show it,” Horner insists.


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Russell might well be rabbiting the chat with the Mercedes team; of those veteran team members who recall the utter dominance the German marque had over the field back in 2014 and 2015. Something publically team boss Toto Wolff is keen to deflect and fail to admit to, even now.

In 2014, Mercedes was more dominant than any other team in the history of Formula 1. At least that’s the perception of Paddy Lowe, former senior technical boss of Mercedes at the time.


“I don’t think any other team has ever had that much of a lead. In 2014, the situation was that we could adjust how much of a lead we needed on a given day. And that went on for a few races during the season,” Lowe said two weeks ago on’s YouTube channel.

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Marko: Opponents have “stepped up”

And motorsport consultant Helmut Marko is also rather critical of the fact that Red Bull is always “accused of superiority”, as he tells Sky:

“It’s there when everything runs absolutely smoothly”, he says.

“However, even small things would be enough for things to go wrong… And our pursuers Ferrari, Aston Martin and Mercedes have stepped up. You saw that here.”

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