Horner-Wolff, ferocious jokes and complaints: the world championship gets into the ring

The Englishman, a former driver, is one of the authors of the Red Bull miracle: 4 titles in a row with Vettel; the Austrian is a self-made financier. What a fight this year

The challenge to the sound of accusations and low blows between Christian Horner and Toto Wolff animated the 2021 World Championship almost as much as the duel on the track between their pupils Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. Never the level of the clash between team principals had reached certain peaks, turning the spotlight on the men who manage the battleships Red Bull-Honda and Mercedes. The aplomb vanished very soon and the two did not miss an opportunity to exchange long-distance polemical responses and poison phrases throughout the championship. Horner and Wolff did not miss anything, sometimes going well beyond “fair play”. From the first race, in Bahrain, up to the twentieth, in Qatar, all sorts of things were said. Phrases like these: “Christian is a big balloon who loves to make himself beautiful in front of the cameras. We should be more modest”. Or: “I respect what Mercedes and Hamilton did, but I don’t have to go to dinner with Toto and I don’t need to kiss his c..o! Understand the climate?

On the other hand, this season has turned into an all-out war, on and off the track, which is fought with every weapon, including communication. It is part of the F1 game, where everyone tries to destabilize the enemy and weaken him, using strategy as in a game of Risk. The political battle between Wolff and Horner, or between Mercedes and Red Bull-Honda, has been incessant, with suspicions on both sides, requests for technical clarifications from the FIA ​​and sporting complaints for the drivers’ maneuvers. Red Bull, queen of the winter tests, took the lead in the first part of the championship because the genius Adrian Newey was able to better adapt the chassis and aerodynamics to the small (but decisive) regulatory changes imposed at the beginning of 2021. So then here is Wolff’s first move, in Baku, when Mercedes calls for stricter controls on the flexibility of the rear wing of Red Bull, which will come into effect from France. Horner retorts: “Our car passed the tests, so it’s legal, if I were in Toto I’d shut up looking at their front wing …”. Then Horner goes on the counterattack with an official complaint after the Silverstone incident, in which Hamilton rams Verstappen at 290 per hour and sends him against the barriers, considering the 10 “penalty too light that allowed Lewis to win the race (the appeal was rejected). We arrive in Brazil and Hamilton’s Mercedes is relegated to last position after qualifying due to the excessive opening of the moving wing (Drs) on the straight, an episode that does not prevent Lewis from recovering in the “sprint race” on Saturday and then back in the race, taking an incredible triumph. The spied on the commissioners, of course, had been from Red Bull … So another complaint, this time from Wolff, to punish Verstappen, who at 48th lap had defended himself from an overtaking by Hamilton taking his rival off the track without receiving the 5 “penalty (the appeal is still rejected). While Horner throws new suspicions on the power unit mounted by Lewis at Interlagos. Who knows if they have other surprises in store for the last 2 GPs in Jeddah and Abu Dhabi.

According to Horner, Wolff’s attacks are a sign of nervousness: “This is the first time anyone has put pressure on them, because Mercedes had never had any rivals in the era of hybrid engines, and it’s interesting to see how they are reacting.” In reality, the Red Bull boss is also agitated, judging by how he offended the commissioner who waved the yellow flag costing Verstappen the penalty in qualifying in Qatar, only to apologize and be fined. “It is a fierce fight between two great teams – observes Wolff -. We started with boxing and now we are in mixed martial arts, by now in the ring we have taken off our gloves”.

Born fighters

Toto is a fighter. He learned to fight when he was a little boy and lost his father. One day the principal of his private school came into the classroom and told everyone in front of everyone that he and his sister had to leave, because the mother could no longer pay their tuition. He became a finance guru, creating the most important “hi tech” fund in Austria, and then breaking through in New York. He joined F1 as a Williams shareholder, after being an amateur driver, and came to own 30% of Mercedes F1, a team worth one billion euros. Do you think a leader with Wolff’s strength, charisma and political weight could be frightened by a great challenge? His opponent Horner, cover character for his marriage to singer Geri Halliwell ex Spice Girls, is no less in terms of character and political ability. A former Formula 3000 driver, he was one of the architects of the Red Bull miracle, leading the team from nothing to the four world championship triumphs achieved in the Vettel era. It also helped lay the foundations for the future, with the creation of an engine department in Milton Keynes from which home-built power units will be released in 2025-26. Horner has moved in an unscrupulous way on the market, snatching specialized engineers from Mercedes. Another reason Wolff swore revenge on him.

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Horner-Wolff, ferocious jokes and complaints: the world championship gets into the ring