Horner: Hamilton/Mercedes behind F1 ‘narrative’ to pressure Verstappen

Red Bull Formula 1 team principal Christian Horner says Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have played a part in pushing a “narrative to put pressure” on Max Verstappen.
Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing at a team photograph.
Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing at a team photograph.
© xpbimages.com

On the eve of this weekend’s title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Verstappen claimed he has been unfairly treated by F1’s stewards compared to other drivers this season. 

Horner agreed with Verstappen’s view and argued the Dutchman faces additional scrutiny over his driving standards. 

“The problem for Max is that the scrutiny is on him, he has the spotlight positioned on him,” Horner said during Friday’s press conference.

“He's running at the front, he's competing against a seven-time world champion, and I think allegations about his driving, about his driving style, about his driving standards have been...there's been a narrative that's been pushed to put pressure on him.” 

Hamilton described Verstappen’s driving as “over the limit” after they clashed several times in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, before adding that F1’s overtaking rules “doesn’t apply to one of us”. 

Asked if he thinks Hamilton has played a role in the narrative against Verstappen, Horner said: “Lewis is a seven-time world champion, he’s the most successful driver of all time, he has a standing obviously within the sport and what he says carries a lot of weight. 

“I think he has used every tool available to him to put Max under pressure this year. He’s a competitive animal, you don’t become a seven-time world champion by not being a competitor like he is.

“Yes, I believe - and backed up by the Mercedes media machine - a huge amount of pressure has been placed on Max. 

“What you’ve got to remember with Max is he’s just a young lad. He’s a 24-year-old who drives with bravery, with passion, with skill, with determination, and he’s just a guy living his dream, doing his job. And he’s up against not only Lewis but a huge machine in Mercedes-Benz.

"I think all credit to him the way he’s handled that pressure this year and hasn’t been drawn into it, hasn’t been sucked into it, he’s just gone about his business and he hasn’t changed from Bahrain to Saudi, his approach or how he goes racing.”

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB16B.
Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB16B.
© xpbimages.com

Horner referred to the prospect of Verstappen beating Hamilton to this year’s title as being akin to a "David v Goliath” upset in the BBC’s recent The Sports Desk podcast. 

“Well if you think of the size of Mercedes globally they must be one of the biggest automotive companies in the world,” Horner explained when asked if that comparison was a stretch. 

“The power that they wield with media around the world, I think we pale into insignificance in comparison. As Lewis Hamilton indeed called us, we’re just an energy drinks company going racing.

“So no, I think that Mercedes - Mercedes Formula 1 Team - have become a machine over the last seven or eight years during their period of dominance and obviously have the weight and power of the parent company behind them, because I can’t believe it’s particularly comfortable being beaten by an energy drinks manufacturer as a major OEM. That’s never sat comfortably, we know that, it’s been made quite clear to us.

"We’re a team of racers, we’re going racing, we’ve got a phenomenal driver who has driven his heart out this year, and it’s been intense on track and off track. I do think that the spotlight, even the narrative of this last week of this Mad Max scenario, calling him crazy, there’s been a very clear narrative.”

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