Christian Horner’s claims that George Russell’s Sakhir Grand Prix performance showed that Max Verstappen is the “best” driver on the grid is “part of the game”.
That’s according to Toto Wolff.
Although Sir Lewis Hamilton wrapped up a record-equalling seventh Drivers’ Championship title in 2020, a season in which Verstappen managed just two race wins, Horner believe he has the “best” driver on the grid in Verstappen.
And he feels Russell’s near-miss at the Sakhir GP, a race in which he filled in for Hamilton when the reigning champ tested positive, proved that.
Russell qualified P2 for the Sakhir race and would have won in the W11 were it not for Mercedes’ botched pit stop and a puncture late in the race.
Horner says it showed that it is the package that has been playing a huge role in Hamilton’s success.
“At Mercedes, a Williams driver can qualify himself directly on the front row and Russell almost won the race,” he told RacingNews365. “However, if at Red Bull someone has to get into Verstappen’s car, for example if Max had corona, then nobody will reach his level.”
Wolff has brushed aside his counterpart’s comments.
“Christian can’t stop with the teasing in the background, but that’s part of the game,” he said in an interview with Austria’s ORF.
As for who he believes is the best on today’s grid, Wolff concedes that’s not easy to judge given that the drivers, such as Hamilton, Verstappen, Russell and Charles Leclerc, are all in different cars.
“You can only judge the best drivers on the grid if you let them race each other,” he added.
“We didn’t see Lewis against Max, we didn’t see George against Lewis, we haven’t seen Charles Leclerc in a top car.
“But the future belongs to the young drivers and at some point they will all race against each other with the same equipment and then we will see who is the best.”
But who are the best drivers on the grid?
Toto Wolff: "You can only judge the best drivers on the grid if you let them race each other.
We didn't see Lewis against Max, we didn't see George against Lewis, we haven't seen Charles Leclerc in a top car."#ORF pic.twitter.com/wHFhKiYy1x
— tami. (@Vetteleclerc) January 24, 2021
Last year Hamilton raced to title number seven while Mercedes easily took the Constructors’ crown for a seventh successive time.
This year, though, Wolff reckons they may have a tougher time holding onto the titles given that Red Bull has a new man alongside Verstappen.
The team has signed race winner Sergio Perez, forgoing its own junior drivers in favour of a proven star.
“I think Red Bull with Perez will be a much stronger opponent in the Constructors’ Championship,” said the Mercedes motorsport boss.
“I rate Sergio very highly. It will be interesting to see how Perez holds up against Verstappen.
“It’s going to be a season with the same equipment as last year.
“I think Honda will really push hard to compete for the title in their last factory year. Therefore it will be interesting.”