Red Bull raised concerns about the legality of Mercedes’ rear wing design last weekend in Brazil after noting Lewis Hamilton’s straightline speed advantage over the rest of the field, leading to growing tensions between the title-fighting teams.
Red Bull F1 boss Christian Horner claimed on Friday that marks next to the main plane on the Mercedes rear wing were “from wings that have been flexing”, and signalled that his team was ready to lodge a protest.
Horner asked Mercedes counterpart Wolff during Friday’s FIA press conference how he would explain the score marks, to which Wolff replied: “I think it’s within what is allowed.”
Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said the team had “invited the FIA to look at it as much as they want”, and that the officials “don’t have any issue with what we’ve got”.
Wolff was asked on Saturday by Motorsport.com about images of the rear wing that Red Bull claimed showed the score marks, but brushed it off as being “a ghost”.
“I don’t know where they got this photo from and what it actually shows,” Wolff said. “It’s a ghost.”
Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes AMG
Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images
The FIA confirmed on Saturday in Qatar that it had introduced additional load tests for rear wings from after qualifying as part of a fact-finding mission that “do not form part of the regulatory requirements”.
Horner welcomed the tests and said they were doing their job, claiming that Mercedes’ straightline speed was “under control” and “suddenly in line” with Red Bull.
In Brazil qualifying, Hamilton’s highest speed trap figure was 327.5 km/h, compared to 318.3 km/h for Verstappen. Hamilton hit 323.9 km/h in Qatar qualifying, with Verstappen reaching 320.5 km/h.
“The track here is less power-sensitive, interestingly, and I think they’ve just done a good job,” Wolff said, explaining the straight-line speed.
“Their straightline speed with the big wing is identical to ours. So yeah, I’m happy that they are happy.
“Let’s go to Saudi Arabia and maybe we’ll hear some comments again. In a way, the debates that are being kicked off or launched, I cannot follow any more.
“We’re struggling to keep up with commenting the rumours that are being made from that side.”
Asked if he thought Horner’s comments could indicate that the threat of a protest had been averted, Wolff said: “It could be, I don’t know what they are planning to do.
“As I said before, I can’t follow up, I can’t in a way follow the thinking. It seems erratic.
“But that’s OK. I don’t want to even put any more oil in the flames. We’re trying to look at ourselves, trying to do the best possible job.
“We’re still on the back foot with 14 points, we need to do a good race tomorrow. That is what counts.”