Questions were raised about the legality of the Mercedes when an updated version of the W13 debuted on the opening day of the Bahrain pre-season test, with its radical sidepod design catching the eye of its rivals. 

Horner was quoted by German publication Auto Motor und Sport as saying that Mercedes had “gone a step too far” with a concept “that does not correspond to the spirit of the regulations.” 

A Red Bull spokesperson later said the quotes were “incorrect” and clarified that “no official comment” had been made by the team. 

Horner was questioned about the Mercedes’ legality when he faced the media during Friday’s press conferences. 

“I think it’s interesting, it’s very innovative of what Mercedes has come up with,” he said. “It’s quite a different concept to the concept that we pursued and some of the others have [pursued]. 

“It shows the creativity even within constrictive regulations in Formula 1, that very different solutions are coming out. Whether it’s the right route or whatever, only time will tell. 

“What we see in F1, there tends to be convergence over a period of time on design philosophies. But what’s so good about this sport is you get a clean sheet of paper, you get 10 different interpretations. 

“Mercedes has come up with an extreme one that’s a different interpretation. Whether we think it’s legal or not, yes absolutely, it looks like it ticks all the boxes.” 

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Horner also denied ever making the comments that were reported by AMuS. 

“I think comments have been quoted that certainly weren’t made,” he explained. “I think the car is obviously innovative, it’s an interesting solution. 

"I think as far as we’re concerned, the Mercedes car looks like it complies with the regulations. It’s just a different interpretation, a different solution.”

Asked if he believes the design complies with the spirit of the regulations, Horner replied: “There’s not really anything that defines the spirit of the regulations, it either complies or it doesn’t. 

“It’s not really for us to judge, the FIA has the access to all of the drawings, a design like that surely would’ve been submitted in advance. 

“It’s an interesting concept, it’s a radical concept. Is it quick or not? Only time will tell but in terms of its compliance, that’s very much an FIA matter.”