Red Bull have questioned the legality of the rear wing used by Formula 1 title rivals Mercedes and will protest if they see something suspicious at this weekend’s Qatar Grand Prix, principal Christian Horner told reporters ahead of FP2 in Doha on Friday.
Horner was speaking after FIA stewards rejected a Mercedes request to review a decision not to punish Red Bull’s championship leader Max Verstappen for an incident with Lewis Hamilton at the previous race in Brazil.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, whose team lead Red Bull by 11 points in the constructors’ championship, told reporters earlier on Friday that the gloves were off in the title battle between the two teams.
Red Bull have long had suspicions about the Mercedes rear wing, with Verstappen feeling it with his hands after a Saturday sprint race in Brazil, earning himself a 50,000 euro ($56,545) fine.
Asked whether he suspected the wing was “somehow dumping drag even with the drag reduction system closed at certain high speeds”, with ‘score marks’ from flexing apparently visible on the end-plates.
FIA introduced new flexibility tests after Azerbaijan following suspicions
Horner told Sky Sports television: “There’s very specific regulations about this. And obviously, the directives that came out prior to Azerbaijan (in June) had a material effect. I think this is something even more advanced… it’s hidden in the way that it operates so that it’s harder to spot from a camera.
“But you can see the straight-line performance since Hungary [August], and particularly in the last two grands prix, has gone exponential. And I think that obviously concerns us.”
Horner said Red Bull technical head Adrian Newey and chief engineer Paul Monaghan had been discussing the matter with the governing body.
The FIA introduced new flexibility tests after Azerbaijan following suspicions some teams were bending the rules with wings that passed static inspection but worked differently at speed. read more
Asked whether Red Bull were prepared to protest, Horner replied: “Make no bones about it, if we see it on the car here it will be protested.”
Horner said the wing was likely to be less of a factor in Qatar than at Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah street circuit and Abu Dhabi, the last two races of the season.
“You could have a situation like Brazil where the [Mercedes] is quite simply unraceable,” he said of his rivals’ straight-line speed.
Verstappen leads seven times world champion, Hamilton, by 14 points ahead of Sunday’s race. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin)