‘Merc refused to supply engines in Australia’

Date published: May 12 2020

Christian Horner head in hands

Mercedes forced its customer teams to vote no to an Australian GP as they “would not supply engines” revealed Christian Horner.

It is also already known that Mercedes swung the vote when the Formula 1 teams were deciding whether or not to race in Melbourne.

Although Formula 1 headed to Australia for what would have been the season-opening race, the grand prix was thrown into turmoil when McLaren withdrew after a positive test for one team member.

The rest of the field sat down to vote on whether to continue or not.

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff initially voted yes but hours later, after speaking to Mercedes’ big bosses over in Germany, changed his vote to no.

He also refused to supply Mercedes customers, Racing Point and Williams, with engines.

Speaking about the events and how they played out, Horner confirmed that Red Bull wanted to race or at least go ahead with Friday practice and see how the situation played out.

They were outvoted.

“At the time, it all felt rather knee-jerk, certainly without knowing all the facts as this was one positive case from thousands of people working in the paddock,” he told the Red Bull website.

“We called a meeting at the Crown Hotel and got F1’s Managing Director, Ross Brawn, involved. He came and brought the FIA’s Race Director, Michael Masi.

“As the authorities were still happy for the event to go ahead I suggested, as many of us did, that we should run on Friday as planned and re-assess the situation on a regular basis.

“If people showed symptoms then they would be tested, because they were turning them around pretty quickly, and if there were any further cases then we would make the decision on whether we should continue, but at least we would have started the event.

“It was McLaren’s decision to pull-out which they had every right to do given the circumstances but there is nothing in the rules that says if one team withdraws, the others have to do the same.

“Given the guidance at the time and the fact that other sporting events were taking place in Australia the same weekend, I pushed to run because there was only one positive test which resulted in a split vote among the teams.

“Ross called the FIA President, Jean Todt, who said he would go with the majority, so it was down to Ross as he had the final vote.

“He said he agreed with my suggestion, to do further tests and evaluate the situation in 24 hours, and he also wanted to get the event rolling. My feeling was that if the government and medical authorities felt it was safe for the race to go ahead, then as a race team we were prepared to race.

“But, soon after the meeting had ended, I had a telephone call from Ross at around 3am, who said we had a bit of a problem because Mercedes had changed their position. It also meant they would not supply engines to their customers.

“It turned the situation on its head and the eventual outcome changed. As a result, there was little choice for F1 but to cancel the event.”

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