Formula One in 2023 is running pretty smoothly by all accounts. There is the intrigue over Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes contract to be resolved together with the persistent debate over whether Perez has come to the end of the line with Red Bull.
But for now there are no accusations of cheating the cost cap to gain an advantage, no drivers being announced to drive for next year only to be stolen away by another team and no secret technology rows over who is in breach of FIA regulations.
Red Bull/Mercedes toxic rivalry
Yet the animosity between Red Bull and Mercedes is always simmering away likely to boil over at any moment over the most insignificant matter.
Much of the toxic rivalry is rooted in the infamous 2021 season where after almost a decade of dominance Red Bull fought their way back to claim the drivers’ title at the last lap of the last race.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believed that his opposite number had unduly influenced the race officials that day which resulted in record eight title being ‘stolen’ from his star driver Lewis Hamilton.
The feud intensified over the next season and first erupted when Mercedes attempted to influence the FIA to change the car design regulations. The Brackley outfit had built a pig of a new car which bounced viciously causing their drivers significant discomfort.
Wolff threatens Horner
Meanwhile Red Bull had nailed the new regulations and their drivers were suffering very little from the new aerodynamic porpoising effect associated with ground effect car designs.
In an explosive meeting of the team principals filmed by Netflix, Toto Wolff was described by an insider to Sky F1 to have “totally lost his shit.”
“I hear lots of chit-chat about porpoising, Chinese whispers through the press, emails being sent,” Wolff said to the other nine team principals. “I can tell you that all of you are playing a dangerous game.
“If a car ends in the wall because it’s too stiff or it’s bottoming out, you are in the **** and I’m going to come after you.”
Horner: “change your f***ing car”
Horner reacted by saying “are we playing to the cameras?” He suggested that Wolff was only speaking up due to the presence of Netflix and insisted the conversation should happen privately.
But Wolff hit back: “I don’t care. If you think this is a little game and performance, I tell you, you are very, very wrong.”
Horner then exploded: “Well, change your car! You’ve got a problem. Change your ****ing car!”
Later in the year Toto Wolff hit out at Red Bull accusing them of “cheating” following a leak from the FIA that the Milton Keynes based team had breached the cost cap.
Marko blocks Mick Schumacher move
The niggles have continued this year and the latest flash point appears to be over Mick Schumacher.
When Mick’s future was uncertain at Haas, Franz Tost of the junior Red Bull team was apparently in favour of recruiting the young German. With two years under his belt in F1 already, Tost believed he would contribute more quickly than were the team to bring in a complete rookie.
However, Helmut Marko allegedly blocked the move and AlphaTauri signed Nyck de Vries instead.
In what many believed to be a move made in deference to Mick’s father Michael, Mercedes recruited the young German as their test and reserve driver and Toto Wolff has promised to promote him wherever he can.
Red Bull: “Stupid…Wolff”
Helmut Marko has now alleged Toto Wolff is trying to push Red Bull into handing Schumacher a lifeline for next season, again with the junior AlphaTauri side.
Speaking to German television channel Sport1, Marko claimed that Wolff tried to arrange a meeting with Red Bull CEO Oliver Mintzlaff to discuss the possibility of a move for Schumacher.
“It was mentioned at a meeting. It’s just stupid that Mr. Wolff at the same time openly made politics against us at the FIA again. With that, the topic was off the table,” revealed Marko.
“Why should we take Schumacher? He is a Mercedes driver, Mr Wolff is responsible for him.
“If he thinks so highly of him, why not let him drive in his own team or use his influence to get him into a customer team like Williams?”
Toto accuses Red Bull
Wolff has responded to Helmut Marko’s claims suggesting Red Bull are bad mouthing Mick Schumacher and making it difficult for Toto to find him a slot on the 2024 F1 grid.
“I’m not even sure that we can facilitate, because every time we speak highly on him somebody feels to say something negative,” Wolff said.
The Mercedes boss also angrily denies speaking with Red Bull about Schumacher.
“As a little aside, I never spoke to Red Bull leadership about giving Mick a place there the way it was said by Helmut. Wherever I can speak highly and praise Mick, that’s what I’m doing. But at the end, it’s every team’s authority to decide on the drivers.”
Mercedes’ hoping to place Schumacher
Wolff has been most vocal about how he believes Gunther Steiner and Haas F1 badly treated Schumacher.
“I am sure that if Michael had been by his side in those two years at Haas, Steiner would never have dared to treat Mick this way,” claimed Wolff earlier this year.
The Mercedes boss is believed to be discussing the possibility of Schumacher joining Williams for 2024, who by the time Mick was released by Haas had announced the signing of Logan Sargeant.
Williams may find a home for Mick
“I very much respect our contracts within the team, and whenever you have to take a reserve driver, you have to take a reserve driver,” says Toto.
“I think kids are missing out. To be honest, I think he was burned last year.
“You need to provide an environment and framework that is different for every driver and different human beings. And I think whoever gets him will have a very good talent.”
Sargeant not delivering for Williams
Logan Sargeant was signed by the previous Williams team boss who then was relived of his duties and the team appointed Mercedes “lifer’ James Vowels.
Sargeant is rooted to the bottom of the drivers’ championship without a point while his team mate Alex Albon is in P12 with seven points.
As Haas F1 are proving, it may be better for the smaller teams to employ experienced drivers’ rather than rookies and this may be Schumacher’s hope for regaining his pace in F1 next year.
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 26, 2023