Sergio Perez ensured that Red Bull left Baku with the winner’s trophy, but they also had some business with Mercedes to finish…
Red Bull has emerged as a serious challenger to Mercedes in 2021, looking to ensure that the Silver Arrows’ stranglehold on Formula 1 ends at seven Drivers’ and Constructors’ title doubles in succession.
But while the on-track battles have so far been conducted cleanly and respectfully, in the paddock the same can not be said.
What felt like harmless banter between Mercedes team Toto Wolff and Red Bull principal Christian Horner during this rivalry, has in recent rounds picked up a very different tone.
Arguably the first major flashpoint was Red Bull’s poaching of Mercedes staff for their new engine division. That in itself was not frustrating for Mercedes team boss Wolff, but Red Bull, it must be said, were very vocal about it.
Even Ferrari principal Mattia Binotto questioned Red Bull’s handling of the situation.
Then there was the ‘bendy’ rear wing saga, started by Lewis Hamilton’s complaints, and this is what really caused the tension between Wolff and Horner to peak at the Azerbaijan GP.
It would start when Horner was discussing Mercedes’ complaints over the Red Bull rear wing, to which he called into question the legality of the front wing on the Mercedes W12.
“I think if I was Toto, with the front wing he has got on his car I would keep my mouth shut.”
Later in the Baku race weekend, Wolff would call Horner a “windbag” who is “looking for media attention”.
And so, when Perez took his first victory in Red Bull colours, the Austrian outfit decided that they would leave Baku with the last laugh.
Nice work, Red Bull admin.
— Red Bull Racing Honda (@redbullracing) June 6, 2021
Red Bull went from despair to delight in Baku. Max Verstappen was leading the race until a left-rear tyre blowout saw him crash out with only a few laps remaining. With Hamilton then promoted to P2, the Briton was set to regain the lead of the Drivers’ Championship.
But, at the race restart, Hamilton accidentally flicked a switch which altered his brakes and caused him to lock-up. He skidded off into the run-off area, while Perez was free to drive on to victory.
The end result, Verstappen remained P1 in the Drivers’ Standings, while Red Bull boosted their lead over Mercedes in the Constructors’ to 26 points.