Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has a very special offer for rival Red Bull: since it has so many doubts about Mercedes’ rear wing, it can have one. His Red Bull counterpart Christian Horner, meanwhile, is not ruling out a protest. “If we think their car is illegal, we will definitely protest.”
After Red Bull became the center of a flexi-wing soap opera and even had to adjust its rear wing because it would bend too much – which gives more top speed – Max Verstappen’s team has set its sights on Mercedes. For weeks, the lists with the top speeds have been viewed with suspicion by Red Bull, there have been complaints and suspicions about this from the Red Bull camp.
Of course, that engine that Mercedes has put in with Lewis Hamilton is brand new and very strong, but that is not the only thing according to the bull stable. The rear wing would certainly contribute as well. The main plane, the fixed element of the rear wing (i.e. not the element that can be opened with DRS) would be too flexible and bend at high speeds. This also results in more top speed.
‘Brazil was not normal’
Since this has been a thorn in Red Bull’s side for some time, it does not rule out a protest, says team boss Horner. “Will we protest? That depends on what we see. Not just here in Qatar, by the way. Certainly on the circuits to come, in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, it could be of great value for Mercedes.” That the teams keep a close eye on each other is part of it, says Horner. “I’m sure Mercedes is also keeping a close eye on our car.”
“There is also a lot at stake,” the Briton continues: “and we just want the playing field to be level.” That is not the case at the moment, he says. “What we saw in Brazil was not normal. Everyone could see that. A new engine comes with more performance, but if you also see signs that the rear wing is too flexible… It’s clear to us what’s going on. The FIA must ensure that all cars are legal.”
‘Checked fourteen times’
Plain language from Horner, but Wolff shoots back. “Let me start diplomatically: I don’t think anyone comes to the track with an illegal car or motorcycle. This world is too transparent for that. Especially as a team that is in the spotlight like that, we would be crazy to drive an illegal car.” And a little less diplomatically: “The rear wing has been checked fourteen times, the FIA has the drawings. Red Bull should also have a wing to look at.”
When Horner points out that there are ‘scratches’ on the end plates can be seen that can indicate that the main plane moves, Wolff shrugs. “How do I explain that? That it is within tolerances, and therefore okay.” The verbal battle is over for a while. The one with the code in hand probably isn’t. Horner: “If we think the car is not legal, we will certainly protest.”