Horner says he'll be 'amazed' if Verstappen gets a penalty as paddock waits for news on Mercedes investigation
Amid much speculation and controversial conjecture in Brazil, Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner has said he will be “amazed” if Max Verstappen gets a penalty for inspecting Lewis Hamilton’s rear wing after Friday’s qualifying for the Sao Paulo Sprint.
The paddock has been kept on tenterhooks after the FIA’s technical delegate Jo Bauer found something amiss with Hamilton’s rear wing – after he had topped qualifying on Friday afternoon. He was summoned to the stewards but after 10pm local time the stewards announced there would be no decision until today (Saturday), and a Mercedes representative re-appeared in front of the stewards ahead of FP2.
There was another twist in the tale when Verstappen and a Red Bull representative were also summoned ahead of FP2 for breaching an article in the Sporting Code that states: “In the Parc Ferme, only the officials assigned may enter. No operation, checking, tuning or repair is allowed unless authorised by the same officials or by the applicable regulations."
The championship leader was filmed apparently touching the rear wing of Hamilton’s Mercedes after qualifying. Mid-way through second practice there was no news on rulings in either the Hamilton or Verstappen cases, but Horner said he doesn't expect his driver to be handed a penalty.
He said: “We’re waiting, I think as everybody is, to see what the outcome is, but I’d be amazed if it was [a penalty for Verstappen]. As I said, there’s so many precedents - it’s become standard practice for drivers. If you were to look at every incident, where would you draw the line? Even a driver hugging his mechanics, you know, where do you draw the line on that?
“I think as we’ve seen with many, many drivers, they sometimes have a look around to see what’s going on with other cars so that’s all it was – a bit of inquisitiveness but nothing more – we’ve seen it with drivers pulling our clutch paddles, we’ve had heads in cockpits, we’ve had front wings tested, cars pushed, cars rolled around, so it’s not something that is unusual. It’s never been brought up or even discussed previously.”
The Red Bull chief also implied that he thought Mercedes may be heading for a penalty, citing qualifying for the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix when Red Bull were excluded as their front wings were found to be flexing beyond the regulations.
“Well, the car has been reported to the stewards because it failed the test. And the test is quite clear. I think we all saw the video footage of the car failing the test, so I can’t see how it could then be deemed to comply with the regs,” he said.
“So, it’s fairly binary: it’s either in or out. I remember back to  we had an issue with the front wing, it failed the test, we were kicked out, and had to start at the back of the grid. You had the right to appeal it of course as a team; we chose not to on the day but still.”
Hamilton qualified on P1 for the Sprint, Verstappen second, and Valtteri Bottas third – but that could all change ahead of this afternoon's event in there are penalties handed down.