Red Bull team principal Christian Horner sees nothing illegal in the new-look Mercedes car, and is far more concerned how Formula 1’s budget cap will impact teams given the “circumstances we have in the world” he said referencing the Russia-Ukraine war.
The F1 budget cap was reduced from $145-million (€132-million) to $140-million (€127-million) this year and drops to $135-million (€123-million) next year. The decision made in 2020 was to improve competition, giving richer teams like Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull less of an advantage.
But with the ongoing Vladimir Putin led Russian invasion of Ukraine, rising inflation, energy prices and interest rates going up rapidly, Horner is worried the budget cap is now unrealistic.
He said during a press conference in Bahrain: “I think it’s a very real problem because we’re already seeing extremely high inflation. What you have to remember is when the budget cap was set back in the midst of the pandemic – in the middle of 2020 – nobody could have foreseen the circumstances we have in the world today.
“What we see going on in the world is only going to drive prices one way. Inflation looks like it could hit record amounts. We’re seeing that impact already, on things like air freight just to this event,” added Horner.
Before urging F1 to respond quickly: “I think it’s a very serious problem that we have to look at and address because this has an impact on people’s jobs and livelihoods. I think it’s the duty of the regulator to look at this with a degree of urgency to make sure the relief is put in place.”
It’s very innovative what Mercedes have come up with
Horner was also asked about the new upgrade to the Mercedes W13, the radical car has attracted much attention in the paddock because it has much narrower sidepods compared to testing in Barcelona two weeks ago.
The triangular slit for the radiator inlets could improve airflow by providing a higher cooling speed, and thus improving downforce. It also sports contentious mirror support winglets, which some believe so audacious bend the rules that it might be a cheeky ruse.
“What’s so good about this sport is you get a clean sheet of paper, you get 10 different interpretations (from teams),” Horner said.
“Obviously Mercedes have come up with an extreme one that’s a different interpretation. To answer your question whether we think it’s legal or not: yes, absolutely. It looks like it ticks all the boxes.”
Horner flatly denied telling a German publication earlier this week that he thought the upgrade was illegal: “Comments have been quoted that certainly weren’t made.
“As far as we’re concerned the Mercedes car looks like it complies with the regulations. It’s just a different interpretation, a different solution,” he explained.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said Thursday there were no issues and that the W13 design had been cleared by governing body FIA. But F1’s managing director Ross Brawn and Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto expressed surprise at the new development.
Horner, whose star driver Max Verstappen won the world title last year, offered more thoughts on the W13: “It’s very innovative what Mercedes have come up with. It’s quite a different concept to what we’ve pursued and some of the others have.
“It shows the creativity that exists even within constrictive regulations in F1, that very different solutions are coming out. Now whether it’s the right one or whatever, only time will tell,” added the Red Bull boss.
For anything to be changed to cars during the season, eight of the 10 teams must agree as well as F1 and the FIA. Verstappen begins his F1 World Champion title defence on March 20 in Bahrain. (Report by Jerome Pugmire)