Relations between Mercedes and Red Bull were tempestuous in 2021 as Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen became embroiled in a heated battle for the F1 world title
Toto Wolff has taken aim at Red Bull by claiming he wouldn’t want any of Max Verstappen, Christian Horner, or Helmut Marko at Mercedes.
Wolff and Horner became embroiled in a bitter war of words during the 2021 campaign, frequently making digs at each other as Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton battled for the world title. The Austrian accused his rival of being a “windbag” in one exchange, and both bosses were labelled “childish” by Mathias Lauda during the title run-in.
And their rivalry was then exacerbated by the controversial finish to the campaign in Abu Dhabi. During the now infamous safety car procedure, which ultimately gifted Verstappen the chance to overtake Hamilton on the final lap and be crowned world champion, it was Horner who put pressure on race director Michael Masi to alter his original instructions.
Following the race, Mercedes launched two protests over what transpired, both of which were dismissed by race stewards. It meant Verstappen and to wait until late into the night to have his win confirmed, with Horner saying afterwards “we shouldn’t have had to go through that.”
An FIA report into the events of the Yas Marina has now been released, admitting that “human error” meant safety car policies weren’t properly followed. And despite the 2022 season now being underway, the ill-feeling is still very much apparent.
In an interview with German publication Bild, Wolff was asked “Who would you rather have from Red Bull in your team: Verstappen as driver, team boss Christian Horner or head of motorsport Dr. Helmut Marko?” Marko, 78, serves as a Red Bull advisor and oversees the team development programme.
Wolff’s response was cutting: “I’d rather do it alone,” he said. It wasn’t the only shot he fired during the interview.
He was also asked who the top three drivers were on the current roster, and despite Verstappen being world champion, he blatantly implied he didn’t match up to the men at Mercedes. “Hamilton, George Russell and Max Verstappen,” he said. “In this order.”
Russell, 24, replaced Valtteri Bottas at the Silver Arrows at the end of last season, but is yet to have a Grand Prix win to his name. His fourth placed finish in Bahrain last Sunday represented his biggest points haul to date.
Much of the newly released Netflix series, version four of Formula 1: Drive to Survive, puts emphasis on the frostiness between Wolff, 50, and Horner, 48. In one episode, the Englishman dismisses his rival’s success.
“What you have to remember about Toto is he has inherited something that is already well-oiled,” Horner said. “‘He has not had to build anything. He operates the team in a much different way to me.”
The primary focus for both team bosses however, is likely to be on getting back on track ion Saudi Arabia this Sunday. Mercedes were notably off the pace in Bahrain, although Hamilton and Russell did finish third and fourth respectively after both Red Bull drivers had to retire late on with fuel pump problems