There was no love lost between Formula 1 rivals Red Bull and Mercedes during Thursday’s video conference hearing with F1 stewards confirming the 10-second penalty handed to Lewis Hamilton following contact between his car and Max Verstappen’s Red Bull machine at Silverstone two weeks ago.
That Petition to Review was heard by stewards on Thursday but duly rejected as stewards deemed that none of the four pieces of evidence presented by Red Bull warranted re-opening the investigation.
One segment of the stewards’ report raised eyebrows as they noted “with some concern certain allegations made” in a letter supplied by Red Bull.
Speaking on Friday in Hungary, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner outlined that it likely referred to “the process of approaching the stewards during the course of the event,” an element that F1’s race director Michael Masi has since clarified. Masi has informed bosses that they may not convene with stewards who are in the process of deliberation.
Nonetheless in the aftermath of Thursday’s decision Mercedes issued its own statement in which it criticised “a concerted attempt by the senior management of Red Bull Racing to tarnish the good name and sporting integrity of Lewis Hamilton.”
Horner was unimpressed by Mercedes’ release.
“The statement by Mercedes is a little antagonistic shall we say but I don’t really read too much into it,” he said. “It’s never been anything personal about a single driver. It’s about the events that happened and a competition between two guys, it’s not individual to any driver. If that had been any driver the reaction would have been identical. I was a little surprised at Mercedes’ comments.”
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff explained why the team made the unusual step of making such a public proclamation.
“I think we wanted to bring a little bit of respect back to the discussion,” he said. “We understand that emotions can run high, it’s always a matter of perspective and perception but we felt that that line was overstepped. We felt that comments that were made during and after the race in written statements and in the meeting itself were below the belt.”
After a week or so where the action concentrated on the politics both stressed they were keen for attention to be turned back to the racetrack.
Verstappen heads into this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix leading Hamilton by eight points, with Red Bull four points in front of Mercedes in the Constructors’ standings.
Verstappen has never won at the Hungaroring but finished runner-up to Hamilton in both 2019 and 2020; Hamilton is chasing victory at the venue for a ninth time, which would be a record at one circuit. His first Mercedes win came at the Hungaroring in 2013.
It is the final event before a four-week summer hiatus, after which events will arrive thick and fast, with 12 grands prix due to take place between late August and mid-December.
“As far as we’re concerned, the chapter is now closed, the stewards have made their ruling and we’re now very focused on this weekend and the remaining part of the championship,” stressed Horner.
“I think we’re more in this [fight] than we were before,” outlined Wolff. “This [season] is going so long, so it’s too early to make assumptions.”
However, neither Verstappen nor Hamilton topped practice on Friday, with running instead led by Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, who has not won a grand prix since September 2020. Bottas’ own future with Mercedes remains uncertain amid ongoing speculation that the World Champions will move protégé and current Williams racer George Russell into the seat for 2022.
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