Christian Horner is demanding urgent answers on how Mercedes managed to install a second-deck stay in its car so quickly ahead of the Canadian GP, questioning whether the world champions had prior knowledge of the FIA’s technical directive designed to help teams overcome fuel problems. heels. Your cars.
Mercedes was the only team to introduce an additional suspension – a measure designed to help stiffen the light tread and specifically permitted following the directive – testing the solution on George Russell’s car in free practice. They eventually decided not to use it in the race, but they were still much more competitive, with Lewis Hamilton going from describing his car as “undrivable” last Friday to finishing third in Montreal 48 hours later.
“What was particularly disappointing was the second stay,” said Red Bull team principal Horner. “This needs to be discussed in a technical forum, and this is openly biased towards solving the problems of one team – the only team that showed up here with this, even before the technical directive. Then settle it.”
Horner’s comments mark the latest escalation in a furious row over Mercedes’ struggles with jumps and lunges. At a heated meeting in Canada, Ferrari’s Horner and Mattia Binotto claimed that Toto Wolff was exaggerating the problems in an effort to force an FIA intervention. This drew a savage rebuke from Wolff, who claimed his opposing numbers were not paying enough attention to driver safety and instead resorting to “Chinese whispers” and “regrettable” political games. He later apologized to Horner on the Montreal grid.
But Horner remains convinced that Mercedes’ ordeal with its cars has less to do with safety than a failure to interpret the revised rules this season as effectively as Red Bull. “The problem with Mercedes is more serious, or certainly was before Canada, than with any other car. This is certainly down to the team. It’s within their control to deal with it, if it’s not affecting others.
“I know it has been said that other riders are complaining. Our drivers never complained, never, about boto. They said that certain circuits could be fixed, perhaps resurfacing in some places. But we had no problems with heels. The problem is that Mercedes has a very rigid car.”
There is also concern among Mercedes’ rivals over Shaila-Ann Rao, who worked for 3.5 years as general adviser and special adviser to Wolff, taking over as interim FIA general secretary this month. Rao oversaw last week’s technical guideline for teams. Binotto described his move from Mercedes to the top of the sport’s regulator as “certainly a concern”.
Binotto added: “It’s up to them to ensure there are no conflicts of interest, to behave appropriately.” Wolff, in turn, endorsed Rao’s credentials for the position, arguing, “She’s a lawyer and she’s about governance and transparency. That’s what she will try to implement and that’s good news.”
Horner is especially hurt by the timing of the FIA’s decision to intervene, with his directive issued just as many paddock members, including him, were in the air en route to Montreal. “There is a process for these things to be introduced,” he lamented. “You can’t suddenly change the technical regulations in the middle of a season.”