Red Bull Racing is a team full of confidence having just achieved three consecutive race victories during the 2021 F1 season. Two Max Verstappen victories sandwiched Sergio Perez’ Azerbaijan Grand Prix triumph and ensured the team is indeed flying. Following the French Grand Prix this past Sunday, which saw Max Verstappen claim the race victory, Fastest Lap and Driver of the Day (all from pole position) Mercedes-AMG Formula One Team Principal Toto Wolff has voiced his shock at the performance of Red Bull Racing’s second power unit. Such comments, as one might have guessed, have not been well received by the Team Principal of Red Bull Racing - Christian Horner.
Following Max Verstappen’s stunning French Grand Prix victory, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team Principal, Toto Wolff, was asked by reporters, post-race, as to whether the Grand Prix weekend was a successful one for his team. This question was posed due to the fact that Sir Lewis Hamilton lost the lead of the race on the penultimate lap of a 53 lap stunner as Mercedes looked to bounce back after Red Bull’s recent dominance.
"It was a tough fight but I don’t see it as a positive. They have made a huge step forward with their power unit, the introduction of the second power unit. And their race car is good, no doubt about that. That’s why it’s a tough one this year."
The 2021 F1 season is indeed being proven to be a tough one for Mercedes as the Silver Arrows look to claim an 8th consecutive season as F1 Constructors’ Champions. However, Wolff’s claim that the second power unit introduced by Honda has seen Red Bull Racing make ‘a huge step forward’ has been met with confusion by the team’s boss Christian Horner.
Due to strict homologation rules enforced by F1 there is no chance for any ‘huge step forward’. These rules mean that all Formula One teams must run their car with the same specification engine all season. Therefore, Christian Horner is less than impressed by Toto Wolff’s remarks which have seen the pair hit the headlines once more.
"We're not allowed to make progress," Horner said to the waiting press looking for a response on Sunday after Wolff's comments. "I don't know what he's referencing there.
"I think that it's the same specification as the first unit. We've run a much smaller rear wing, so that's why the straight line performance was strong. I think Honda are doing a great job, but we don't see a sudden significant increase in power."
Also coming to the aid of Christian Horner to dampen any suspicion, was Honda F1 Technical Director Toyoharu Tanabe. Recent comments from Tanabe, published by motorsport.com, present the argument that any performance gain is probably as a result of better energy management by Red Bull Racing.
"On the team side we are introducing new parts so that we can evolve every race," Tanabe said. "The power unit is the same [specification] all the time, but we are learning better how to use energy management etc. for every race. We are looking at the characteristics of each circuit, and I think that such daily developments are connected to the current improvement."
Formula One is likened to a circus due to the way the travelling spectacle moves from town to town – or rather country to country. However, this season, following the latest war of words between Toto Wolff and Christian Horner, it would be more appropriate to be called a soap opera.
Although soap operas seem to never end, the 2021 F1 season will indeed reach a conclusion and the next instalment of the drama comes in Austria with back to back weekends at the same circuit, the Red Bull Ring. So, what does Toto Wolff feel his team’s chances are around the home circuit of his closest rival? The team’s official website mercedesamgf1.com had the answer:
"Austria has been a tricky circuit for us in past seasons, but we went well there last year. We know the situation is very different this season, though. It's a very quick lap and a short circuit, with fewer opportunities to gain time. The margins are going to be tight, so we'll give it maximum attack!"
Maximum attack will indeed be what is required if Mercedes hope to stop the charge of Red Bull Racing but after all, isn’t that what a bull is meant to do? The 2021 F1 season is gripping both on and off the track and now we wait to see the next comment from either team that will stoke the fire of this hotly contested battle.