Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has fired a warning to Mercedes, claiming that Max Verstappen has paid no mind to the controversy which shrouded his world title triumph last season. The Dutchman is gearing up to defend his crown, with the usual suspects still blazing a trail after the first round of pre-season tests. Verstappen overtook Lewis Hamilton on the final lap of last season’s finale after
FIA race director Michael Masi effectively wiped out the Brit’s lead behind a late safety car. Weeks later, Masi was sacked from his post after a lengthy FIA investigation which has, in the eyes of many, cast a shadow over Verstappen’s title. Hamilton fans and Mercedes themselves feel as though the seven-time world champion was robbed of title number eight, as he appeared to be cruising towards another victory before the late twist at Yas Marina.
Horner played down the debate and controversy which has dominated the off-season, however, in a recent interview with BBC Breakfast. “You can understand the controversy but obviously a lot has been made of that and the decisions we made, it was nothing to do with us,” he said. “We changed tyres and that gave Max that advantage. Mercedes could have done likewise but chose not to.
“I think it’s gone completely over his head. He doesn’t watch the BBC! He was delighted to get that first world championship against such a strong opponent. Lewis Hamilton is the most successful driver of all time. And I think that’s what made it so intense and so hard last year, the intensity of that rivalry.” Verstappen was rewarded for overcoming the intensity and winning his first title with a lucrative new Red Bull deal,
which will reportedly net him £40million per year. That puts him in the same pay bracket as Hamilton, and the title-chasing duo could go head-to-head once again in 2022 if their respective cars remain closely matched. Several days of testing in Barcelona are already in the bank, and all F1 teams are currently working hard to ensure that improvements are made before drivers take to the track in Bahrain for more tests this week.
As the new season edges closer, Horner spoke at length about 2021’s conclusion in an attempt to put the issue to bed. It was just such an epic season, from start to finish so intense,” Horner added. “It all came down to that last race. “We’d had bad luck earlier in the year and we had a bit of good luck with the safety car at the end. It was controversial but we made the right strategic calls.