Christian Horner confirmed that it was Lewis Hamilton’s father Anthony who tested the waters at Red Bull, saying such exchanges should not shock Mercedes as Hamilton has not won an F1 race for two years.
Hamilton and Max Verstappen delivered an all-time classic title battle in 2021, Verstappen winning out to become World Champion for the first time, Red Bull having not had a Drivers’ Champion since Sebastian Vettel in 2013.
Since then Hamilton has fallen away from the title scene as Mercedes struggle to get to grips with the ground effect aerodynamics rolled out from 2022, Hamilton without a victory since the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
Christian Horner can understand Lewis Hamilton-Red Bull exchange
The Hamilton-to-Red Bull rumour mill was sent into overdrive ahead of the F1 2023 season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Hamilton denying a claim from Horner that he had approached him over a potential Red Bull drive earlier in the year, his father Anthony since suggested as the member of the Hamilton camp responsible.
Horner would confirm that when speaking to media at Yas Marina Circuit and while reaffirming that Red Bull are happy with their drivers, Horner can understand Hamilton Sr wanting to put the feelers out considering his son has not tasted victory with Mercedes for two years while Red Bull continue to dominate the sport.
“It’s remarkable how much traction this has got, so thank you to the Daily Mail for going exclusively large on this item,” said Horner with a smile.
“It’s a question of he said, she said, who said, what said. It’s entirely normal for drivers – drivers’ representatives, drivers’ parents – to have different conversations during the course of the year.
“Look, we haven’t had any serious discussions with Lewis, there was never a seat available.
“I’ve known Anthony Hamilton for many years, he’s a good guy, he’s a proud racing father and inevitably, when drivers go through tough spots – and let’s face it, Lewis hasn’t won a grand prix for two years – it’s inevitable that questions will be asked up and down the paddock.
“But there was never any engagement and I don’t know who represents who or what, but with the same surname you would think they were reasonably close.
“But other than pleasantries, there was no specific: ‘Can I drive for Red Bull next year?’ unless Anthony wanted to drive!
“But as I say, it’s not unusual. There’s many drivers, as you can imagine, that we hear from during the course of a year.”
Asked if Mercedes would have been surprised to hear about this chat, Horner returned to the point of Mercedes being unable to give Hamilton a winning car over the past two seasons, so one doesn’t need to be a “rocket scientist” to work out there would be interest from Hamilton’s inner circle in getting him into the dominant Red Bull team.
“Not really,” Horner said. “He’s the most successful driver of all time and hasn’t won a grand prix since 2021, so you haven’t got to be a rocket scientist to work that out.
“And I doubt that I was the only one that there was an inquiry made to.
“Now, what the dynamics are within any given relationship, I don’t know – I’m not privy to that – but inevitably there are questions going to be asked and there’s not really much more to say. A lot has been made out of something fairly innocuous.”
Red Bull will be out to end F1 2023 with a 21st victory of the campaign in Abu Dhabi.