Mercedes, Red Bull’s F1 title intensified tensions: “Gloves have been taken off”


Toto Wolff of Mercedes F1 Team and Christian Horner of Red Bull Racing at a press conference before the Qatar F1 Grand Prix. (Getty Images)

LOSAIL, Qatar-On Friday, Christian Horner and Toto Wolfe appealed at the same time that the FIA ​​denied that Mercedes had unpunished champion leader Max Verstappen last week , The most dramatic Formula One championship battle in at least a decade has further intensified.

In the 30-minute tense media briefing, Wolf, the head of Mercedes, and Horner, the head of Red Bull, sat side by side, showing all the hostility between the two teams.

“This is the world championship at the highest level of racing,” Wolff said. “From Olympic boxing to professional boxing, it is now a mixed martial arts. Now it is allowed to use the elbow because the rules are like this and the gloves are taken off. Nothing else. Can be expected.”

F1 moved to Losell this week to participate in the first Qatar Grand Prix. The result of last week’s race is still up in the air. Lewis Hamilton won his 101st victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix and, with three games remaining, narrowed the gap between him and Verstappen to only 14 points.

Mercedes protested the decision not to punish Verstappen in Sao Paulo when the Red Bull driver pushed Hamilton off the track while the seven-time champion tried to pass the ball to take the lead. The FIA ​​heard the appeal on Thursday, and then rejected Mercedes’ request when Horner and Wolf attended a Friday briefing.

Horner shrugged to Wolfe, declaring that there was “no relation” between the two. He also said that as Red Bull tries to end its dominance at the top of the series, the Mercedes team may collapse.

“I think this is the first time they have been challenged. It’s interesting to see how people react under pressure and how they react when challenged,” Horner said. “This is the fiercest political championship we have participated in the sport so far.”

It’s one thing that it doesn’t matter. But respect?

Horner said he appreciates what Mercedes has achieved. The same is true for Hamilton. If he can catch up with Verstappen in the next three games, he will be able to surpass Michael Schumacher with a record eight championships.

“But I don’t need to go to dinner with Toto. I don’t need to kiss his (butt) or something like that. There may be other team principles,” Horner said. “Toto and I are very different roles, we operate in very different ways. Am I going to spend Christmas with Toto? Probably not.”

Is there any chance of peace between the warring parties? Wolfe doesn’t think so.

“I think the competition is too fierce,” Wolff said. “You can’t expect you to have dinner with your opponent, your opponent’s team, or your enemy in a sports game, regardless of personality and role.”

At the same time, on the track, Verstappen was among the best in the first practice session and looked comfortable on the 5.4 km (3.5 miles) track. Mercedes driver Valterri Bottas was the fastest in the second practice.

Hamilton ranked fourth in both games.

Verstappen has won nine career-high games this season. This is the first time Hamilton has gained a foothold since 2016. At the time, teammate Nico Rosberg led him by 5 points to win the championship. Since losing to Rosberg, Hamilton has won four consecutive championships.

Mercedes and Red Bull have been arguing throughout the season-the collision between the drivers on the first lap of the British Grand Prix sent Verstappen to the hospital, and the collision between the two at Monza caused Verstappen’s car to crash. Reached Hamilton’s head.

But it has reached another level in Brazil. Mercedes was found to have an illegal wing in Hamilton’s car, and Verstappen was found in a video taken from the stands to illegally touch this part after practice.

Throughout the weekend, when Verstappen was not punished for overtaking Hamilton, Mercedes broke out. Although Hamilton won the game, Mercedes still opposed the cancellation, hoping that Verstappen would be punished retroactively. If the protest is successful, Verstappen will be punished by time, which will drop him from second to third in the Brazilian Grand Prix and further tighten the championship race.

Wolfe said the ruling was “completely expected.”

“We want to spark discussion around it because it might become a topic,” Wolff said. “We don’t think it will go further.”

Horner said it was the right decision.

“Otherwise, a series of other events in that game would open Pandora’s box,” Horner said. “I think the most important thing now is to focus on this Grand Prix. We want a good, clean and fair fight.”


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