Max Verstappen makes subtle dig at Lewis Hamilton
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Red Bull boss Christian Horner has subtly struck out at his Mercedes counterpart, Toto Wolff, by claiming that this season’s battle with Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto is ‘different’ because he is a ‘nice guy’. Horner is in the midst of a new-look title race with the Silver Arrows off the pace, and it could be a close fight with Ferrari for team and individual honours.
Horner and Wolff locked horns time and again in 2021 as Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton followed suit on track. Mercedes won an eighth consecutive Constructors’ Championship, but Verstappen took the individual crown on the final lap of the final race in Abu Dhabi.
With such an emotional finale still fresh in the memory, Horner faces a different challenge this season with Ferrari currently out in front. Binotto is softly-spoken compared to Wolff, and Horner has painted a picture of just how different they are by subtly launching a dig at the Austrian.
“Mattia [Binotto] is a good guy, he’s a kind of different competition,” said Horner, per Motorsport. “So you’re writing off Toto [Wolff], there’s plenty of time for him to get back in the fight, but I think we’re focused on ourselves.
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“The nine teams are our rivals, and I think last year there was a lot of provocation, things happened on and off the track. This season it seems that everything is starring on the circuit, and I think that the races between Charles [Leclerc] and Max [Verstappen] have been great, they have been epic.
“If that continues through the year, inevitably, it’s going to heat up, as everything gets more competitive, and the stakes are higher in the second half of the year, but what we’ve seen so far has been a respectful, tough fight, but fair, and, as I said, I think Mercedes will join the party soon.
“I think it’s very close with Ferrari, it’s been some great racing, and you can see the great respect between Charles and Max. They’re enjoying each other, you can see that, and I was hoping we weren’t ready for another year like last year, but it seems that this could go to the end too.”
Indeed, the battle between Verstappen and Leclerc has been a gripping one so far as the duo have split each of this season’s five Grand Prix between them. The Dutchman has three wins, including last time out in Miami, while Leclerc has benefitted from Ferrari’s consistent form by notching the other two.
Despite the fine margins, the contest is yet to develop the same gritty element that was crystal clear when Hamilton and Verstappen jousted for the crown in 2021.
But like Horner says, as the season goes on and the prizes come into view, the rivalry could heat up in the same way last year’s title race did. Binotto has already fired classy warning shots of his own, estimating that Red Bull have already torn through most of their development budget and pledging to improve Ferrari’s performance over the coming races.
It remains to be seen if the pendulum swings back towards the Prancing Horse next time out in Catalonia after Red Bull stole the show in Miami. Both teams are on the hunt for a rare Constructors’ title as Mercedes’ dominant streak saw them scoop up every single one since 2014, and could come to an end in 2022.
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