Teasing Red Bull will do everything Mercedes did during their intra-team battles for the titles but “better”, Christian Horner admits having his two drivers racing for the championship is a “luxury problem”.
Four races into this year’s championship and it’s evident Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez are the only contenders in this year’s fight for the Drivers’ title with the reigning World Champion six points up on his team-mate.
The team-mates have claimed two wins apiece, Perez also taking the victory at the Baku sprint event with his Australian Grand Prix nightmare the main reason he’s trailing Verstappen in the standings.
It is, as Horner put it, a “luxury problem” for Red Bull who now have to manage both drivers’ title challenges.
But already there have been signs of discontent with Perez calling for a review of Red Bull’s intra-team communication after Saudi Arabia while Verstappen wasn’t happy with the timing of his pit stop in Baku.
“I think that it’s a luxury problem, first of all,” Horner told the media in Miami. “I think any team principal in the pit lane would hope to have that issue. And it’s something we’ve experienced before.
“And I think the most key thing is to ensure that paranoia doesn’t creep in and that both drivers are treated equally.
“You go to pains to provide equality, to the point of who drives out the garage first each weekend, you know, it alternates. It even alternates in the debrief who talks first.
“But you know, it’s racing is Formula 1, and occasionally something will happen like a Safety Car or a pit stop and you can’t control every aspect within the sport. There are still variables.
“And I think so long as the drivers know that they’re both getting an equal chance and it’s ultimately down to what they do on the circuit, that’s where you want it to play out, not through reliability, for example, to play a key role in a championship fight between your two drivers within your own team.”
With Mercedes having fought for the World title from 2014 to 2021, winning it in seven of those eight seasons of which many were solely Lewis Hamilton versus his team-mate, Toto Wolff had some advice for Horner.
“I can tell you from my past, it’s a super tricky job for Christian and the team, because both drivers will obviously try to always feel that they’re fairly and equally treated, whilst at the same time, trying to have an advantage,” said the Mercedes motorsport boss.
“And I think in our team, it was important to maintain a lot of transparency and clarity, discuss things before we actually go racing on a Sunday. Put boundaries. And, at the end, both drivers, even with Nico and Lewis, respected the team’s opinion, whilst we acknowledge that they have a fight between the two of them.
“So going back in time, there’s things I probably would have done differently in 2016, particularly, but the balance right between accepting these two guys are racing for a championship, and it’s within the same garage.
“At the same time, they are part of a larger structure. I think that is not always easy, because they are very competitive animals.”
To which Horner declared with a laugh, “we just do everything Toto says but just a bit better.”