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Shortly after the International Tribunal announced its verdict, Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner was tight lipped about the reprimand and ban from the Young Driver Test issued to Mercedes.

Apparently he’s decided to now vent.

I can understand his frustration.  Mercedes ran an illegal test, and their punishment was to lose access to a subsequent test.  Is this a perfect outcome? No, but there isn’t one.  But it’s proportional.

Red Bull have repeated the position that Mercedes struggled in Barcelona and then as a direct result of the illegal test, dominated in Monaco.  This, as they well know, is pure fiction.  Monaco dominance cannot be directly linked to any gains from the Barcelona test.  Mercedes has consistently demonstrated a strong qualifying car, and as we all know, qualifying position matters most in Monaco. And what happened in Montreal? Perhaps, overcome with guilt, Mercedes turned down their engines. Ridiculous.

And now Red Bull is making noises about running a similar, now clearly illegal, test in protest.  This would be extremely ill advised.  If Mercedes did anything well in this saga, it was their use of a vagueness in communication between themselves, the FIA and Pirelli to extract the cover necessary to escape a devastating sanction. That cover no longer exists.

Red Bull, Ferrari and many others are frustrated with the FIA right now.  There is some merit to this frustration.  It is an organization that seems to be devoid of leadership in all things not related to the FIA Road Safety program.  At  time where massive technical changes are right around the corner, there is a complete absence of leadership from Jean Todt to ensure the sport makes this important transition without unnecessary drama.  In the past, changes and challenges have been worked out with the participation of the FIA President, Charlie Whiting and the Team Principals.  I don’t see this happening today.

The testing framework is the central issue.  Pirelli needs to have tires ready for winter testing on cars that are completely different than anything they’ve used before.  Without benefiting them some tire testing, the FIA and the teams are being completely unreasonable to Pirelli.  The teams are pathologically incapable of making a decision that improves the sport in general, and that’s why the FIA needs to use its position as chief protector of the sport to lead this transition.

It’s self destructive to have teams making threats like this.  It diminishes the dignity of the sport, and is a distraction from the great Championship battles underway.  But the frustration is real, and growing.

I’m optimistic these issues will be sorted out.  The sport has dealt with more challenging problems than this one, but it always boils down to the character and skills of the leadership involved.  The teams need to remember where they are, and what they represent.  And the President of the FIA needs to spend less time lobbying for delegates in the next election and making roundabouts in Kuala Lampur safer, and more time leading Formula 1 through this important transition.

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • charlie w

    Jean Todt was not my 1st choice for the FIA president(it was Gerhard Berger) and now we see it was a bad choice. A unified F1 team rebellion? Not likely. But I don’t understand this call for blood from Red Bull over the judgment. In Christian’s view, what would had been an appropriate punishment? It’s over and done and let’s move on to racing.

    • Tom Firth

      I agree entirely on both actually. I think Berger would have been the best choice for FIA president ,I still do. Of the two that went for the role I would have liked to have seen Vatanen as president, though it was always more likely to be Jean Todt.
      Was good to see Jean Todt at Le Mans the last two years admittedly although as the race is again part of an FIA world championship, that could be why as well.

      On the other note of Red Bull and Horner. I agree its time to move on instead of dragging this out, Especially as the British Grand Prix is this weekend.

      Concentrate on the racing, not the politics.

  • Steven

    These guys are funny. Running illegal holes on the floor that arent “holes”, wings that clearly flex but only when running on the track, illegal ride height adjustments, illegal engine maps, alleged traction control… ANd they complain about his? They got away scott free all those times, no other team logged any complaints and they cant shut and race? Its my opinion that the reason they are being this hard with Mercedez is because it was Brawn that first accused them of breaking the Resource Agreement, other than that, I dont get it.

    They can do their private test, but with which tires? Its up to Pirelli to provide them for them LOL

  • Andreas

    So they plan on doing the same as Mercedes, expecting the same outcome? Good luck finding tires to run during the test… and getting Pirelli to book the track etc. Not to mention getting Charlie Whiting and the FIA lawyers to semi-agree (although it would only be an opinion, of course) to a creative interpretation of the sporting regulations, to create the necessary ambiguity…

    I doubt it will happen, for several reasons. The Tribunal firmly closed the “undertaken by a competitor” interpretation, so there will be no more private tests of tyres (or alternators, ECU boxes or any other third-party parts). If RB and Ferrari really wanted to do this themselves, they shouldn’t have protested in the first place. Doing it after it has been ruled non-kosher by the Tribunal would be anything but clever… Also, Sky Sports is quoting The Times, who aren’t too clear on their own sources. Personally, I’d wait until I see it on the RB before I’d lose any sleep over it :-)

    • Andreas

      It should say “…on the RB website”, of course :-)

  • Jack Flash (Aust)

    I’m not conviced of the story source. Sky Sports reporting from un-named source quoted by The Times. Allthough Joe Saward got his ‘panties in a bunch’ on the subject, and he rarely reads the tea leaves in error!

    If indeed it is true, and Christian Horner did ‘vent with such a threat’, then it is all bluster. Nothing more.

    Red Bull F1 is NOT run by idiots. They know as much as anyone else in Formula 1, that the International Tribunal has shut the gate on any repeat private/semi-private in-season test scenario. Any such test run by a Team to spite the IT outcome, would be total F1 WCC suicide. JF

    • Jack Flash (Aust)

      I just checked the Joe Saward blog site, and he has removed his story (read rage outburst) re Christian Horner making noises of a Red Bull test retaliation to the IT ruling. It was there a few hours ago, but not now.

      Seems Joe either found out the “lineage of sources” were shady, or he thought better of the real political reason for such a toothless threat. JF

      • Tom Firth

        Well It’s still on his site at the minute, Don’t get me started though …

  • dom

    Seems to me that they (RB & Ferrari) always suspected that the decision that was ultimately reached by the tribunal or something similarly lenient was a very real possibility, if not likely. The way the protests were fed to/ handled by the media at various times suggests this.

    Firstly, the protests, made not before but right at Monaco, where there is usually a higher than normal media presence and where Merc was expected by many to do well – possibly even win – were timed for maximum impact on the media and viewers. It was the first race after the test, sure, but they tried to use their success there to change public perception and underline that their success there was a direct result of the test. F1 is more of a show now after all and public opinion is important.

    Then there were the repeated calls for a strong sporting punishment, not to mention Horner’s appearance at the tribunal to ensure heads would roll. I’m not saying they have no reason to be dissatisfied, but the whole thing seemed more like a show – and one with an ending they could see coming from the get go.

    Even this (idle) threat that was made recently I suspect was made anonymously so they could easily distance themselves from it if it had a negative response or gained no momentum with other teams. I agree with the other comments above, it’s done, move on and get back to racing, but there seems to be another agenda and it’s not clear at the moment what that is.