Red Bull boss mocks Mercedes 'theatre' in row over FIA bouncing response

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Amidst the exciting action on the track during the Canadian Grand Prix weekend, Mercedes triggered a big helping of fireworks off it. 

As followers of this season to date will know, the most dominant run of success for a single team in Formula 1 history has come to a shuddering halt in 2022 thanks to new technical regulations, bringing back ground effect cars for the first time in 40 years.

Its return though led to initial porpoising problems for many teams but particularly Mercedes' W13 in the early races and now, that issue has become a general bouncing issue as the car bottoms out on the straights.

As a result, the team has been left lagging behind leaders Red Bull and Ferrari, while their drivers, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell have been complaining of back problems.


Finally, after the high-speed bumps of Baku the weekend prior, which saw the seven-time world champion struggle out of his car post-race, the FIA intervened on the eve of practice in Montreal.

A technical directive was issued stating they would monitor the vertical bouncing of each car to create a metric whereby, if a car exceeded it, the governing body could impose a 10mm ride height change on teams in the interest of driver safety.

However, a day later, its implementation in Canada was dropped after an angry action from rival teams.

Ferrari claimed the directive was "not applicable" as the FIA hadn't followed the right governance procedure because a TD can only clear up existing regulations, not make new ones.

More vocal though was Red Bull boss Christian Horner, who believed the bouncing issue was car-specific and so should be up to individual teams to solve rather than a broader issue with the regulations.

He and others also questioned Mercedes' instant reaction to the FIA also permitting teams to run an extra floor stay to reduce flexing.

“There is a process of these things to be introduced,” he said. “I think what was particularly disappointing was the second stay.


“It has to be discussed in a technical forum, and that is overtly biased to sorting one team’s problems out – which were the only team that turned up here with it, even in advance of the TD. So work that one out.”

This triggered a reportedly heated exchange between Horner, Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff in a meeting of team bosses on Saturday, leading to a later outburst from the Austrian.

“This is a sport where you’re trying to keep a competitive advantage or gain it, but this situation has clearly gone too far,” a still amped up Wolff said.

“All drivers, at least one in every team, have said that they were in pain after Baku, that they had difficulty in keeping the car on track or blurred vision.

“Team principals are trying to manipulate what is being said in order to keep the competitive advantage and trying to play political games when the FIA tries to come up with a quick solution, to at least put the cars in a better position, is disingenuous. And that’s what I said.

“I’m not only talking about the Mercedes: all of the cars suffered in some way or other in Baku, and still do it here. The cars are too stiff. The cars bounce or whatever you want to call it.

“We have long-term effects [on the drivers] that we can’t even judge. But at any time this is a safety risk, and then coming up with little manipulations in the background, or Chinese whispers, or briefing the drivers, is just pitiful.”

Wolff MonacoGP

Later, however, it was revealed that Netflix cameras were present for the meeting, leading Horner to jokingly suggest there was "an element of theatre" to Wolff's behaviour.

Given how seriously the issue of driver safety is taken in F1, it is notable how the Mercedes boss is getting very little sympathy for his case as many feel he is playing the same "disingenuous,  political games" he accuses others of doing.

In fact, after the much spoken about race in Baku, the team's strategy chief James Vowles admitted they had "pushed the package and our drivers too far" in the pursuit of performance, suggesting there was room to have reduced the bouncing issue but at the expense of speed.

Then, after he and his drivers had pushed so, so very hard for the FIA to intervene because performance-focused teams needed to be "protected from ourselves", Toto was critical of the "overcomplicated" TD they issued.

A potential reason for this is the directive may well impact Mercedes harder than the rest, perhaps resulting in the exact opposite outcome Wolff had hoped for rather than a broader rule change.

Hamilton too even claimed the car couldn't be raised any higher as he welcomed the FIA's attention on the matter but not their solution.

The irony in all of this is during Sunday's race in Canada, on a circuit known for a bumpy surface, Mercedes' bouncing issues suddenly reduced significantly with Hamilton lapping very close to the leader's pace.

This matter though is still a long way from over with more meetings taking place to discuss solutions and another attempt to implement the directive likely coming at the British Grand Prix next weekend.

So let's wait and see what the next twists in this story are.