Horner: Mercedes cannot control ‘maverick’ Red Bull

Henry Valantine
Mercedes and Red Bull bosses Toto Wolff and Christian Horner. Abu Dhabi December 2021.

Toto Wolff and Christian Horner sit either side of the World Championship trophy in their joint press conference. Abu Dhabi December 2021.

Christian Horner believes the “maverick” approach employed at Red Bull has avoided the possibility of Mercedes exercising “control” over them in recent years.

The Red Bull team principal believes the sway Mercedes have developed in the turbo hybrid era has given them an air of dominance that extends off the track as well as on it.

He countered the approach taken by Mercedes by saying that Red Bull still operate with the “essence of a race team” within their work, that has given them the freedom to avoid any tactical manoeuvres that the reigning Constructors’ champins may employ to keep other teams in check – which he believes enables the team to take the fight to their rivals in ways other teams may not be able to do.

“The fundamental differences are that Mercedes is a team that has evolved over the years and grown to such a scale that it is a very well-oiled machine across all of its functions on-track, off-track, politically and media-wise, whereas we have retained the essence of a race team,” Horner told the Daily Mail.

Lewis Hamilton and Christian Horner shake hands.
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, and Christian Horner, Red Bull, shake hands on the podium. Abu Dhabi, December 2021.

“When you turn up at our factory in Milton Keynes, your sole purpose is working for the race team to improve the car and achieve the best results we can.

“You have to be prepared to move quickly and you’ve got to be able to react quickly, not be afraid to speak up, not be afraid to speak your mind.

“We are a bit more of a maverick than any other team and that is why Mercedes have not been able to control us.

“Either through engine supply or drivers, Mercedes have done that with pretty much every other team over past years.

“There has been an element of influence. There isn’t that influence with Red Bull and that makes us a very dangerous competitor.”

The well-publicised tense relationship between Horner and Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff boiled over at times in 2021, with both teams gunning for both World Championship crowns until the final race in Abu Dhabi, in which Horner accused the Silver Arrows of using “underhand tactics” to try and discredit Max Verstappen’s World Championship victory in the off-season.

Horner also claimed that the fact Mercedes cannot exercise the purported level of “control” over his team is the base of the animosity on display at times – despite claiming in the interview that he has respect for his rival on a human level.

Now that Red Bull Powertrains has made the team the newest factory constructor on the grid as well, the added independence of being a direct rival in every way will only fuel the fire for the upcoming season.

 

“That inability to control us is at the heart of the tension between us,” Horner said. “They are a very controlling group. That is Toto’s mantra.

“Suddenly, we are playing in their back yard with the engine too. How can an energy drinks company build a chassis that takes on and beats Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault, McLaren? It sits very uncomfortably.

“Now that we are taking on the power unit and attracting some of the best talent in the business, that is even worse. How can Red Bull produce a competitive engine? That’s our target.”

 

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