Christian Horner, Red Bull’s chief executive, accuses Mercedes’s conduct of a “concerted” smear campaign in order to paint Max Verstappen’s character as’mad’ and ‘irresponsible’ before his Formula One title fight with Lewis Hamilton

  • Christian Horner accused Mercedes, trying to discredit Max Verstappen
  • Before the last race, Lewis Hamilton is ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Dutchman.
  • Horner claimed that Mercedes has tried to make Horner’s driver look’mad and irresponsible.
  • This comes just as the race director announced that points will be deducted from dangerous driving 
  • Horner said that legal action was possible if Verstappen were to be denied the title. 

Christian Horner is claiming that Mercedes ran a defamatory campaign against Max Verstappen in order to strip him of his Formula One title.

Red Bull Team Principal Horner launched an attack on Mercedes, putting F1 Stewards under enormous pressure to penalize Verstappen’s team.

Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are tied on points going into Sunday’s grand prix in Abu Dhabi, but the Dutchman will take the drivers’ championship on total race wins this season if both men do not finish.

Red Bull's Christian Horner accused Mercedes of a smear campaign against Max Verstappen

Red Bull’s Christian Horner accused Mercedes of a smear campaign against Max Verstappen

Verstappen (pictured) and Lewis Hamilton are tied on points going into the final grand prix in Abu Dhabi

Hamilton (pictured) and Verstappen's relationship has cratered in a bitterly fought campaign

Verstappen (left), and Lewis Hamilton (right), are tied in points heading into the final grand prix

Horner said: ‘Of course it’s been a concerted campaign by Mercedes. Totally. It’s been part of a narrative to put as much pressure on the stewards to act differently from any other race. 

‘This is a campaign that’s been driven covertly to put the spotlight on Max, give him a tag-line, portray him as this mad, irresponsible driver, put as much pressure as you can on him, on the team, and ultimately on the governing body.

‘We saw in Brazil, the comments about the penalties being laughable, or Lewis being persecuted. Mercedes have got one of the smartest media arms in the paddock and they use every tool they can.’

Interview with SportsmailToto Wolff, principal of Mercedes Team, raised concerns about a repeat 1990 incident when Alain Prost was beaten by Ayrton Senna to prevent him from winning the title. 

Mercedes principal Toto Wolff suggested there could be a repeat of 1990 when Ayrton Senna took out Alain Prost to stop him winning the title

Toto Wolff, principal of Mercedes, suggested that there might be another 1990 win by Alain Prost when Ayrton Senna defeated him to end his title winning.

Race director Michael Masi has threatened to deduct championship points — close to unheard of in F1 — if he thinks a driver is deliberately targeting his opponent, which has outraged Horner further. 

This is a targeted attack on his driver, he believes and would consider it an unimaginable penalty.

Horner would not rule out legal action if Verstappen is denied in this way and, asked outright if Red Bull would go to court if Verstappen was given a penalty not consistent with punishments across the 2021 season, Horner said: ‘You’ve got to look at the context. The one thing you’re looking for is consistent application of the rules, and why is this grand prix different from any other grand prix that we’ve attended this year?

Race director Michael Masi said points will be docked if a driver deliberately targets a rival

Michael Masi, Race Director said points could be lost if drivers deliberately aim at rivals.

‘You’ve either got rules or you haven’t. Is this more important or less than Silverstone, Spa, Hungary, Monza, Spa, Spa?

‘We’ve had incidents in a lot of places this year.

‘The issue with Michael Masi and the points deduction, that has been percolating since Toto Wolff gave that interview.

‘You’ve got to apply the rules consistently. Max gets frustrated because of this.

‘At times he feels, when he looks at other incidents, they’re not treated in the same manner.’