Racing lines: F1 season headed for dramatic climax

Horner has every right to fight Red Bull’s corner. Of course he does. But his complaints about illegally flexing rear wings, a subject upon which his own team continues to face scrutiny, need to be taken behind closed doors. In a tense press conference at the Qatar GP, Horner and his Mercedes counterpart, Toto Wolff, took the soap opera to new levels of grubbiness in the full glare of the world’s media. 

If Red Bull is so certain that Mercedes’ car will fail the FIA’s load tests, which have been revised in the wake of this row, why hasn’t it lodged an official protest? 

Horner’s personal conduct fell to a new low in Qatar when he accused a “rogue marshal” of contributing confusion to Verstappen missing waved yellow flags in qualifying, which earned the Dutchman a five-place grid penalty. Marshals are volunteers without whom motorsport would be lost. They shouldn’t be above censure, but for an F1 team boss to call one out in public is unacceptable. Horner was reprimanded by the FIA, realised he had gone too far and apologised, as he should. 

The gamesmanship will rage on to the chequered flag (and sadly perhaps beyond) in Abu Dhabi. But the midrace haranguing of race director Michael Masi from team managers via radio messages broadcast to the world is akin to footballers surrounding referees to sway their decision-making. All great stuff, I’m sure, for Netflix and its sensationalist Drive to Survive documentary series, which has profoundly boosted F1’s popularity. But it’s ugly, contemptible behaviour. Sportsmanship is an oldfashioned, twee concept among the F1 hardcore – yet grand prix racing is so much poorer without it. 

So now will Hamilton and Verstappen show their bosses how it should be done as their duel hits boiling point? It would be so refreshing if they do. Ultimately, how this season will be remembered should be in their hands, not those of their warring chiefs. 

Race for a race


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