Scandals being ‘used’ by rivals to weaken Red Bull

Fri, 23 February 2024, 09:00

Feb.23 (GMM) World champion Max Verstappen thinks Red Bull’s off-track controversies are being “used” by Formula 1 rivals to throw the dominant team off its game.

“It’s always a tactic,” the Dutchman told De Telegraaf newspaper at the Bahrain test, where Red Bull’s very different new car for 2024 is turning heads with its apparent superior pace.

Red Bull’s highest profile problem at present, of course, is the scandal that threatens to kick long-time team boss Christian Horner out of the sport altogether.

“Look, I’m really sorry but I cannot comment on the process or the time scale,” Horner told reporters in Bahrain. “I think everybody would like a conclusion as soon as possible but I am really not at liberty to talk about it.”

Many rival team bosses have remained publicly quiet about the Horner saga, with a couple of notable exceptions – usual arch-rivals Toto Wolff (Mercedes) and Zak Brown (McLaren).

Brown, McLaren CEO, is the latest to openly comment, echoing Wolff’s earlier words that F1 is right to now be upholding standards like “diversity, equality and inclusion”.

“As the FIA and F1 have said, they need to handle it swiftly because I don’t believe these are the type of headlines that F1 wants or needs at this time,” added Brown.

Another controversy affecting Red Bull at the moment is the renewed spotlight on the way its two F1 teams – Red Bull Racing and the newly-rebranded former Alpha Tauri – are collaborating ever more closely.

Horner on Thursday thinks rather than complain, the sport should be grateful for Red Bull’s major commitment to F1, especially through the 2008 global financial crisis and the covid era.

“Red Bull continued to support both teams during this difficult time,” said Horner. “Then came covid, and again Red Bull helped with getting Formula 1 back racing.

“Red Bull’s commitment to Formula 1 is outstanding and deserves applause and thanks.”

Verstappen, meanwhile, tempers both controversies with the observation that it’s nothing new that rivals use situations like these to weaken a top team.

“This has always been the case in Formula 1,” he said. “These things are 100 percent typical Formula 1. “You’re always trying to take advantage of something, always trying to attract people away from other teams.

“It’s only logical and we would do that too,” the triple world champion admitted.

Notwithstanding Horner’s presence in Bahrain this week, including in official capacities wearing team gear on Thursday, La Gazzetta dello Sport believes the 50-year-old is probably in his last days in Formula 1.

“I hope everything is not as bad as it’s rumoured,” Mathias Lauda, the son of F1 legend Niki Lauda, told the Osterreich newspaper in Austria. “I hope Christian stays in F1.

“He’s done a great job as Red Bull’s team boss and helped to build that team.”

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