Red Bull threaten own protest over Mercedes rear wing as controversy continues in F1 title battle
"They've obviously found a clever solution with their rear wing. The question is, is it legal?" says Red Bull boss Christian Horner as he threatens protest, most likely in Jeddah or Abu Dhabi ; Mercedes have no concerns about possible protest
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 20/11/21 10:43am
Red Bull are readying an F1 protest of their own against fierce rivals Mercedes, with team boss Christian Horner claiming the world champions are utilising a "hidden" way of boosting their straight-line speed.
A close and increasingly contentious title battle is playing out on and off the track between Red Bull and Mercedes, who had a line finally drawn under the Brazil incident between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton on Friday as stewards denied the Silver Arrows their right of review.
- Mercedes denied review into Verstappen-Hamilton controversy
- Practice Two: Title contenders adrift of pacesetter Bottas in Qatar
- Qatar GP: When to watch live on Sky F1
But the drama is still continuing in Qatar with the revelation from Horner that Red Bull are planning to protest Mercedes' car.
Red Bull, who are ahead in the drivers' standings but behind in the team, believe Mercedes' rear wing has "score marks" on it, enabling them to reduce drag, even when their DRS is closed, to increase top speed.
"Make no bones about it, if we see it on the car here it will be protested," Horner told Sky F1, with Red Bull having already raised questions to the FIA about the wing amid Hamilton's big speed advantage over Verstappen.
Horner added that he didn't think Mercedes would use that rear wing in Qatar and that a protest was perhaps more likely for 2021's final two rounds, where there is a "massive dependency on straight-line speed".
"It's probably less of a factor here, than particularly Jeddah and Abu Dhabi," he said. "But you could have a situation like in Brazil where the car is quite literally unraceable."
Mercedes have no concern over possible protest
Horner's quotes follow Verstappen being fined in Sao Paulo for feeling the Mercedes wing, which he said felt "significantly different".
Mercedes boss Wolff did not deny the score marks but said he "thinks it is within what is allowed" per F1 regulations.
"I think that's his opinion, his perspective, and absolutely fine within the regulations to seek clarification or protest," said Wolff of Horner's comments.
"That's how things are in Formula 1. You want to limit the impact of the possible technical interpretation of the other team. The FIA needs to judge. That's fine."
Mercedes trackside engineer director Andrew Shovlin added: "From our point of view, we're absolutely happy with what we've got on the car, we've invited the FIA to have a look as much as they want and they don't have any issue."
Red Bull: Mercedes have found 'hidden' and 'clever' solution
Questioning the legality of each others' cars is nothing new for Red Bull and Mercedes in 2021, with Mercedes earlier this season having complained about Red Bull's 'limbo wing'. Following that, the FIA introduced tests from the French GP to stop teams utilising that setup.
Horner said there were also "very specific regulations" about this aspect of the rear wing.
"Obviously the directives that came out prior to Azerbaijan had a material effect," stated Horner. "I think this is something even more advanced, and it's hidden in the way it operates so it's harder to spot from a camera.
"But you can see the straight-line performance since Hungary and in particularly in the last two Grands Prix has gone expediential.
"That obviously concerns us and that's why Adrian [Newey, chief technical officer] and Paul [Monoghan, chief engineer] have been discussing it with the FIA."
He added to Sky F1 later on Friday evening: "We've seen an expediential growth in straight-line speed. It's a fact. Just look at the stats and the straight-line speed that Mercedes have been able to achieve in the last two races - in Mexico they were quicker than us in a straight line by 14kph, and it was 27 in Brazil.
"In our mind, they've obviously found a clever solution with their rear wing. The question is, is it legal? That's for the FIA to police."
Analysis on F1's latest off-track controversy
Sky Sports F1's Ted Kravitz
"In terms of the Mercedes, basically when the moveable rear wing, the DRS flap, is closed - it's still dumping drag at top speed and therefore giving them a straight-line speed boost.
"This Mercedes rear wing is legal - but Red Bull could say the 'limbo wings' also passed some tests.
"Then the FIA brought in new tests post-Azerbaijan which they would not have passed had they not made the changes.
"The FIA would have to come up with new tests and see whether this rear wing flap is dumping more drag when it's closed.
"But how the FIA come up with a test for that at a car going 200mph, I don't know!"