Wolff says driving standards ‘need to be assessed’ as Horner feels Red Bull were ‘hard done by’ in Saudi Arabian showdown
After a race full of polarising flashpoints in Jeddah, it was no surprise that rival Team Principals Toto Wolff and Christian Horner offered differing opinions on the race-long duel between their respective drivers Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen in Saudi Arabia.
Verstappen stoked the ire of Hamilton with his staunch defence of the lead in Saudi Arabia, amassing 15 seconds of penalties: five seconds for gaining an advantage off track at Turn 1, and a further 10 seconds for the Turn 27 incident that saw him rear-ended by Hamilton – both on Lap 37.
“It’s more the driving that needs to be assessed and looked at,” said Mercedes boss Wolff after the race. “It’s hard, very hard, maybe ‘over the line’ hard.
“We just want to have a clean championship, may the best man win and if it’s Max at the end, I have peace with that. But it just needs to be a fair race.
“I think he [Hamilton] deserved [the win], he could have been out a few times with a broken front wing. I don’t want to now have dirty laundry here but that wasn’t… that was spectacular, but not a good race,” he added.
Now the two drivers are level on points heading to the season finale in Abu Dhabi – but Verstappen has the advantage having taken more victories this season, as Wolff admitted.
“He has more wins, so I think that is still an advantage but I’m not saying anything that has consequences. I think it’s just important to have a great, great race for the end of the season, two fantastic drivers racing each other.”
Horner, on the other hand, defended Verstappen for the Lap 37 incidents and said that he felt his driver didn’t deserve the penalties.
“I think we feel hard done by with the five-second penalty, and then the incident where Lewis has driven up the back of Max, which we have to go and explain in front of the stewards,” said the Red Bull chief before his driver received a post-race penalty.
“Max was trying to give the place up, we informed Race Control we were going to give the place up, he lifted off – you can hear I think Lewis has actually lifted off, I don’t know if he was messing around with the DRS line – but you know, it was clear we were giving the place up. We’d informed Race Control what we were going to do.”
The Red Bull Team Principal also heaped praise on Verstappen for acing the twists and turns of Jeddah Corniche Circuit – implying that Hamilton enjoyed an unbridgeable straightline speed advantage.
“The first sector is down to the driver and the next two sectors are engine dominated,” he continued. “So anyone can drive easy down the straight bits and I think what Max was able to do through the demands of Sector 1 was truly impressive. And again, it was his only chance of staying ahead. If you look at the demands around the lap, it was remarkable what he was able to do.”
Red Bull leave Jeddah with a 28-point deficit in the constructors’ championship but their drivers are level, setting up a historic season finale in Abu Dhabi.