Red Bull boss Christian Horner has said Max Verstappen was merely being inquisitive about the Mercedes car and “nothing more”.
Verstappen was summoned to the stewards on Saturday morning in Brazil after footage emerged of him checking and touching the rear wing of Lewis Hamilton’s W12.
Mercedes were also placed under investigation for a potential DRS infringement, with Red Bull also having suspicions about just how much the rear wing was flexing on the W12 at certain speeds.
Red Bull’s motorsport advisor, Dr Helmut Marko, claimed that, as part of Mercedes’ defence, they did cite Verstappen for manipulating with the rear wing with his fingers – causing the wing to be not complaint.
Speaking for the first time about the incident, before a decision had been made, Horner brushed off any suggestion of Verstappen doing something sinister to the W12 and making it an illegal car.
“Well, as we see with many, many drivers, they like to look around and see what’s going on with the other cars,” Horner told Sky F1.
“I’m sure that’s all it was, just a bit of inquisitiveness and nothing more. We’ve had drivers pull our clutch paddles, tyres pushed, heads in cockpits. It’s never been brought up previously.
Asked why Verstappen was specifically looking at the rear wing of the Mercedes car, Horner replied: “Well obviously Mercedes’ straight-line speed is very impressive.
“I think, maybe, he is just having a look at that. Drivers are very inquisitive animals sometimes and, as I said, we’ve seen that many, many times.
“The [Mercedes] car has been reported to the stewards because it failed the DRS test. The test is quite clear and we all saw the video footage of the Mercedes car failing the test.
“I can’t then see how the car can be deemed to comply with the regulations. It is fairly binary. It’s either in or out.
“I remember back to 2012, we had an issue with the front wing and it failed the test. We were picked out and we had to start from the back of the grid.
“You have the right to appeal it of course but, as a team, we chose not to on that day and we were able to come through to P3.
Horner also went on to say that he did not expect Verstappen to get a penalty for his detective work following qualifying on Friday afternoon.
He said: “I would be amazed [if he got a penalty]. There are so many precedents and you have to draw the line somewhere. Even a driver hugging a mechanic [could be technically in breach] so where do you draw the line on that?”
Verstappen ultimately didn’t get off scot-free as his boss expected but was only handed a €50k fine, with no racing penalties being given to him.
The same couldn’t be said for Hamilton, who was disqualified from qualifying for the technical infringement and resigned to starting at the back of the grid for the sprint race.