Red Bull chief Christian Horner accuses Mercedes of conducting a ‘concerted’ smear campaign to portray Max Verstappen as ‘mad and irresponsible’ ahead of his Formula One title battle with Lewis Hamilton
- Christian Horner has accused Mercedes of trying to smear Max Verstappen
- The Dutchman is tied on points with rival Lewis Hamilton ahead of the final race
- Horner said Mercedes have tried to portray his driver as ‘mad’ and ‘irresponsible’
- It comes as the race director said points will be deducted for dangerous driving
- Horner did not rule out legal action if Verstappen is denied the title in this way
Christian Horner has accused Mercedes of conducting a smear campaign to deprive Max Verstappen of his first Formula One title.
On the eve of the biggest last-race showdown in the history of the sport, Red Bull team principal Horner went on the attack over what he sees as Mercedes placing F1 stewards under huge pressure to penalise Verstappen and his team.
Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are tied on points going into Sunday’s grand prix in Abu Dhabi, but the Dutchman will take the drivers’ championship on total race wins this season if both men do not finish.
Red Bull’s Christian Horner accused Mercedes of a smear campaign against Max Verstappen
Verstappen (left) and Lewis Hamilton (right) are tied on points going into the final grand prix
Horner said: ‘Of course it’s been a concerted campaign by Mercedes. Totally. It’s been part of a narrative to put as much pressure on the stewards to act differently from any other race.
‘This is a campaign that’s been driven covertly to put the spotlight on Max, give him a tag-line, portray him as this mad, irresponsible driver, put as much pressure as you can on him, on the team, and ultimately on the governing body.
‘We saw in Brazil, the comments about the penalties being laughable, or Lewis being persecuted. Mercedes have got one of the smartest media arms in the paddock and they use every tool they can.’
In an interview with Sportsmail two months ago, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff raised the prospect of a repeat of a notorious incident in 1990 when Ayrton Senna took out Alain Prost to stop him winning the title.
Mercedes principal Toto Wolff suggested there could be a repeat of 1990 when Ayrton Senna took out Alain Prost to stop him winning the title
Race director Michael Masi has threatened to deduct championship points — close to unheard of in F1 — if he thinks a driver is deliberately targeting his opponent, which has outraged Horner further.
He believes this is specifically aimed at his driver and would regard it as an unprecedented penalty in this campaign.
Horner would not rule out legal action if Verstappen is denied in this way and, asked outright if Red Bull would go to court if Verstappen was given a penalty not consistent with punishments across the 2021 season, Horner said: ‘You’ve got to look at the context. The one thing you’re looking for is consistent application of the rules, and why is this grand prix different from any other grand prix that we’ve attended this year?
Race director Michael Masi said points will be docked if a driver deliberately targets a rival
‘You’ve either got rules or you haven’t. What makes this any more or less important than Silverstone, or Spa, or Hungary, or Monza?
‘We’ve had incidents in a lot of places this year.
‘The issue with Michael Masi and the points deduction, that has been percolating since Toto Wolff gave that interview.
‘You’ve got to apply the rules consistently. I think this is what Max feels a little frustrated about.
‘At times he feels, when he looks at other incidents, they’re not treated in the same manner.’
Originally posted 2021-12-11 12:36:07.