Red Bull’s French GP win disproves accusations over tyres and wings – Horner

2021 French Grand Prix

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says the team’s victory in the French Grand Prix disproved any insinuations about their performance.

The French Grand Prix saw the introduction of tougher tests of rear wing flexibility and new restrictions on tyre use, following recent controversies the team was linked to.

Red Bull was among the teams which indicated it would have to modify its rear wing design to comply with the revised test. Its introduction came in response to footage which showed their rear wing deflecting at speed during the Spanish Grand Prix.

Last weekend’s race was also the first since the introduction of new restrictions on tyre use following Max Verstappen’s high-speed failure at the previous round. Formula 1 tyre supplier Pirelli attributed the failures to lower than expected pressures on the cars which experienced the failures, which also included Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin.

But Horner said Red Bull’s victory last weekend vindicated his team and showed neither the rear wings nor tyres were key to their performance.

“A lot of comments have been made in the last few weeks, accusations made,” he said. “But we comply with the rules and the way that we reacted, I think, again, it shows the strength and depth, that our performance isn’t based on rear wing flexibility and at all times we’ve always followed the prescriptions from Pirelli.

“Obviously the increase in tyre pressure this weekend was challenging for all the teams. But again, the engineering team have done a great job in optimising the car around it.”

Horner responded to further remarks from its leading championship rival following Sunday’s race. Mercedes suggested the team had introduced an upgraded power unit when it fitted new engines to its two cars.

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Teams are not permitted to introduce upgraded power units until the start of the 2022 F1 season. Lewis Hamilton acknowledged this when speaking after the race on Sunday, but suggested the ease with which Verstappen overtook him showed Red Bull had upgraded hardware from Honda at the French Grand Prix.

We’re losing three and a half tenths just in a straight line,” said Hamilton. “So you saw him fly past me down the straight. There was nothing I could do to keep him behind.”

Asked if that was a concern given the championship situation Hamilton said: “It’s difficult because the engines are homologated. They’ve obviously brought an upgrade here. So we’ve got to dig deep and try and see if we can figure out how to get quicker.”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said Red Bull “have made a huge step forward with their power unit, the introduction of the second power unit” in France.

Speaking in response to Wolff’s comments, Horner denied Red Bull had used an upgraded engine. “We’re not allowed to make improvements, so I’m not quite sure what he’s referencing there.

“It’s the same specification as the first unit. We’ve run a much smaller rear wing here so that’s why the straight-line performance was strong.

“Honda are doing a great job. But we don’t see a sudden significant increase in power.”

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2021 French Grand Prix

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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54 comments on “Red Bull’s French GP win disproves accusations over tyres and wings – Horner”

  1. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    23rd June 2021, 8:59

    Mercedes just hates to be beaten by a company known for making sugary water. It’s going to be even more hilarious if/when Red Bull manages to get their own branded engine up there with Mercedes: The once allmighty PU from the grand Mercedes beaten by an energy drinks company.

    1. “a company known for making sugary water.”
      But also a company dedicated in all kinds of exciting sports and sports personalities to brand a certain vibe/lifestyle. They’ve done this from day one, and became so successful that some of these ‘marketing initiatives’ have become profitable by themselves (F1 will be one of them).

      Mercedes might sound great as a car company, but is only a 1/3rd shareholder with another 1/3rd shareholder being a chemical giant stepping in and out of sports to market itself.

      I’d even argue that Red Bull as a sponsor is closer to the DNA of F1 (there is the word again) than the tobacco companies, mobile companies, chemical companies, Betting sites, and even many car brands (when used just for short term branding) who sponsor the other teams.

    2. If there is one company that will have to repent till the ends of time, it’s Mercedes-Benz for their involvement during certain events in the 20th century…

      Reply moderated
  2. Oh Ron Dennis/Mclaren. What could have been…

    1. @julian384

      I’d argue Mclaren will be exactly where they are now even if they had stuck with Honda.

      There were fundamental structural problems that are still being ironed out. A proper PU may have helped in the early days, but right now, I dont think it makes too much difference. Mclaren a keeping with an improving trajectory since 2018. I believe there is an argument that the environment may have been less harmonious if they’d remained in partnership with Honda. That relationship was not a good one. and blame lies with both parties.

      It just appears that RB have taken a different approach to Honda, it appears they’ve integrated into one another’s operation. Like or not, you have to admit, Christian Horner is an exceptional leader, I feel he is one of the primary reasons for the success of the partnership. Whereas, at Mclaren, there was a void in leadership from day one. If there was an Andreas Seidel type character at Woking circa 2015/16, it may have worked.

  3. Mercedes is really Scraping the barrel.
    Wings, engine, tires, pit equipment.
    What’s next.. Max using doping?

    1. You just might be on to something here… :-)

      1. That would be Hamilton then, you need a lot of champion ships in that league.

      2. I was joking all through practice with my friends that Bottas had stolen Lance Armstrong’s EPO but then had to change that to Max after the race lol

  4. What next? Isn’t it Mercedes bendy front wing that Horner has been speaking about for a month? That seems to have gone quiet.

    1. Not quiet by a long shot.

      According to reports in Germany, Red Bull has asked for the FIA to investigate Mercedes’ front wing, stopping short of launching an official protest.
      “The FIA is on it,” Red Bull’s motorsport advisor, Dr Helmut Marko, is quoted as having told Sky Germany.
      “There is enough footage. We expect it to be similar to the rear wing [new tests]. But we wait to see what the FIA will say.”
      Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, meanwhile, is also bracing himself for the possibility for new front wing tests being introduced.
      “Maybe something will come,” Wolff is also quoted as having told Sky Germany. “We would like to have it stiffer.”
      The wing issue was brought up again by Nico Rosberg in Sky F1’s post-race coverage where Wolff and Horner were interviewed together, which led to quite an amusing exchange between the three of them.
      Rosberg: “So Christian…Toto and other teams got you on the rear wings and you had to change that. Mercedes are still flexing more than average on the front wing, what are you going to do about that?
      Horner: “Yeah it’s payback basically. Today was payback for Barcelona and he [Toto] gets the front wing in a couple of weeks as well.
      Wolff [to Rosberg]: “Are you stitching us up?! We have paid you well for many years!”
      Rosberg: “Let me stand in the middle of you two.”
      Horner: “Is Nico not still on the books?”
      Whilst the back and forth between Mercedes and Red Bull continues, now all eyes turn back to the FIA to see what it is implemented regarding the flexing front wings and how quickly something will be in place.

      1. Interesting. Where’s that from?

        1. Itnwas clearly visible on the world feed too, there were a few shots from the merc nose cam. On straights the wings deflected down a lot

          1. No, I mean the article :)

          2. It was during the post-race coverage on Sky.

      2. “We would like to have it stiffer.”

        Toto is getting older…

  5. Funny how when mercedes wins no other team complains, but when they start losing they try to find illegal things on others always without making an official protest to fia, much like they did with Ferrari in 2018

    Reply moderated
    1. Yea, you never heard Horner complaining about magic buttons, party modes, demanding parity engine wise, etc, during the last seven years. Apart from when Sky went to him on the pit wall every qualifying and race.

  6. Ah, great. The wings were too flexible, so FIA changed the tests. Didn’t work. The tyres were too soft, Pirelli changed the mandatory pressure. Didn’t work. Now Toto is going flat out by saying the have an illegal engine. So the next few races thy’ll be moaning about what needs to change in the tests performed by FIA to bring it to light. It really does seem Mercedes can’t believe anybody has actually managed to close the gap. I think what’s really happened is that Mercedes was hit harder by the rule changes for this year and the loss of party-mode. And Honda developed a great engine for this year. It seems Toto has a hard time accepting that, though.

    1. Toto isn’t a graceful loser, clearly.

    2. In fairness TW is not saying they have an illegal engine, and I’m not sure what he has said exactly about RBR’s fresh engine for France, but certainly it is LH that is saying two things at once…“It’s difficult because the engines are homologated. They’ve obviously brought an upgrade here.” They cannot possibly have an upgrade, since the engines are homologated so I’m guessing if LH were pressed on that comment he would have to admit that what he meant was that getting a new engine, just as he/Mercedes got at Azerbaijan, is an ‘upgrade’ in that it is fresh.

  7. But RB did change their rear wing didn’t they and Pirelli was very careful not to accuse anyone of fiddling with the tyers.

    1. @johnrkh The regulation changed, so obviously the wing of anyone whose compliance level changed in the process will have changed their wing.

    2. Yeah. I think Horner feeling like this need to be said rather points to reality being quite the opposite of what he is saying @johnrkh. Both drivers mentioned that having to go to the skinny rear wing instead of the previous flex wing had made their first stints especially harder.

      That they were still able to be fastest does show that we are dealing with a team that is pulling all the punches to win. What is what we expect them to do. Their pitstop pace is still best. Their engine is clearly up there at about the level of the Mercedes. Their chassis works really well this year, probably a nudge ahead of the mercedes. And their drivers are both really good. Perez got to a solid level now, Max is doing a really top notch job. And their strategy department seems to have gotten to grips with how to do things again too.

      1. In the old days, Mercede’s slap dash strategy calls might have still won them the race. Now that things are so much closer they cant afford the gaffs they so obviously made at the French Gp.

        That said, i think the powers that be would sooner RB conjor up a championship win, than allow Hamilton an 8th title.
        so if this means turning a blind eye to RB then so be it.

        The last 2 races have been very strange for the mistakes made by Mercedes allowing RB to gain points on them. lets see if this trend continues.

  8. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    23rd June 2021, 10:38

    Mercedes really do seem salty they’re being beaten. It’s because of flexing wings, because of the tyres, because of the engine – it’s like they’re so used to winning and so unfamiliar with being beaten it has to be ‘because of something’. It’s a bit gross to read to be honest.

    Silly thing is the margin they were beaten with was so tiny. If things had been a tiny bit different Mercedes could have won multiple of the races they have lost over the last few GPs so it’s really on a knife edge – they’re not being clapped by an undefeatable foe, they’re just being outplayed. Who knows? In the next few races the pendulum may swing into Mercedes favour and we’ll be wondering where Red Bull’s ‘awesome pace’ has gone.

    1. @rocketpanda Yeah well said. I was surprised right at the outset with the ‘it’s no secret the rule change was meant to harm low rake cars…’ from LH, which I hadn’t heard a peep about until after Max got pole in the first race. Well in fairness there was the segment Ted Kravitz did with Mercedes’ James Allison as they poured over the new car after it’s reveal and just ahead of testing when TK asked JA if the floor change favoured low or high rake cars at which point JA said they didn’t know. Hmmm…’no secret’ eh? And where has that talk been for the last many weeks? Seems it petered out when OS from AM had his fill of whining and had to let it go likely because of LH’s wins.

      I agree the pendulum could swing for all we know, and at least Mercedes can thank their lucky stars that RBR didn’t suddenly become the ultra dominant team they themselves have enjoyed being for the last 7 seasons, and they should be grateful that they are still in it well within a shout.

  9. They showed a rear facing OnBoard shot from the Red Bull on the OnBoard-Mix during the race & the RBR rear wing is flexing pretty much just as it was before so the improved test’s hasn’t really changed anything in that regard.

    https://i.imgflip.com/5e8s9c.gif

    1. I do not think this gif is correct.
      Two shots on different angles. Look at the rear suspension and see the movement.
      When looking at the tip of the sharkfin and the location of the wing there is no real difference.

      1. @randommallard The 2 screengrabs were taken 2 seconds apart, The first just before braking into the chicane & the 2nd just after the apex when the speed was at it’s lowest/wing had come back up to it’s normal point.

        When you watch the video (Which got blocked instantly when I put it on Youtube) it’s clear what the top element of the wing is doing. The whole wing is bending backwards & the top flap is squashing downwards & not something that has anything to do with the rear suspension. It’s the same type & level of flex that started the whole debate.
        https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x826gfr

        And for the record i’m not complaining about it as this sort of clever engineering that I like about F1. What’s the old saying, You read the regulations once to know the regulations & then read them again to look for any possible loophole/advantage. It passes the test’s, Therefore it’s legal but watching OnBoards from various cars over the weekend the RBR rear wing is clearly flexing way more than anyone else’s & if they have found a way to achieve that while passing all the test’s then thats great design/engineering.

        1. @stefmeister

          The 2 screengrabs were taken 2 seconds apart

          This is exactly my point. Due to airflow over the car, the entire rear bodywork will ‘squat’ at high speed, such as along the mistral straight, but return to it’s normal high rake position through the low speed sections such as the chicane.

          I can’t deny that the wing is still flexing a little bit, but the dots seen on the wing that were added recently show that it seems to be moving much, much less than in Barcelona, and at what I would guess to be an absolute maximum of 2cm, while the FIA static load test tolerance is 1.5cm.

          However, I do agree with your final paragraph. This sort of clever engineering is part of what makes F1 interesting. The one thing I disagree with is your statement that passing the tests makes it legal. As a slight pessimist, I always think that passing the tests only proves that it’s not illegal in that current form under those tests. I haven’t seen other onboard footage yet (UK and F1TV don’t mix well), so I can’t comment on whether it’s different for anyone else.

    2. @stefmeister As erikje points out, that appears to be down to the suspension movement on the car. You can see this as the suspension arms bend downwards just underneath the rear wing, and the tyres move outwards as the arms move downwards. As a car speeds up, it will naturally lean backwards due to the acceleration forces and drag acting on the car. This concept was crucial to ground effect working through the original ground effect era. This is almost certainly legal because it is acting on the suspension, and the suspension is supposed to bend and deform to an extent. This will naturally affect high rake cars more than low rake cars as there is more room for the car to move downwards.

      1. @stefmeister I know you have said you’re not complaining about it, so this is not meant to grill you on it, but I’d have to agree with @randommallard that while the wing still flexes it is not nearly as much as before, or at least this to say ‘pretty much as it was before’ still means less so, and presumably still legal within the new testing parameters, or we would have heard about it from Mercedes. Unless I missed them saying the test is still not stringent enough?

        And really, why wouldn’t RBR et al, including Mercedes, still make a wing that flexes a bit but is legal? After all, they’re all doing it with the front wing elements too, so one can fairly ask, if wing elements are supposed to be fixed (within reason) why aren’t they all needing to have much stiffer front wing elements? Oh I do realize there seems to be a difference with the whole wing flexing downward, be it the front one or the back one, and the elements within the wing. So I’m not sure if that is going anywhere, but I certainly don’t blame Horner for putting that one back in TW’s face.

        Would be interesting too. If front wing elements suddenly had to be far stiffer, and Horner is claiming those are more crucial being at the front of the car, then how would everyone’s car performance change if the test parameters were suddenly (presumably with a grace period) changed?

  10. Er, no Christian, winning a race doesn’t disprove the accusations.

    Regularly passing the scrutineering tests does. (It may take several races to get round to doing all the teams).

    Nonetheless, so far, so good.

    1. @alianora-la-canta I’m not sure exactly how they do the scrutineering now, but I’m sure there was probably some, err…, encouragement to inspect the Red Bull as one of the first cars after the new checks were introduced. But that is purely speculation on my part

      1. @randommallard Checks are supposed to be random, except for situations where there’s either a prescribed set of positions that are checked (certain things are checked every race for the first X positions) or where a specific clampdown has been put on a specific rule (which may have happened here, but a full version of this test is time-consuming, so we cannot assume the Red Bull necessarily had the full version of it if, for example, it was decided to prioritise doing part of the test on all finishers and do the full one in the next races on cars that are more suspicious).

        Wing flexibility tests are not mentioned among the “more extensive physical inspections” whose results regarding Lance Stroll were issued yesterday, and unfortunately the FIA’s publically-available documents no longer list which checks the standard scrutineering process did on each car.

    2. Yes, given they were running less wing than Mercedes this week and strategy won them the race, I’m not sure where he gets the connection. You might as well hold up Max’s remarks about the strange behaviour of his car in the first turn as proof that the balance has been adversely affected by the new regulations. As one of the pundits said, these were minute gains in the scheme of things, so you would barely notice minute losses in performance. Bit like the party mode and magic qually button Horner spent 7 years banging on about. Nothing much changed.
      Not that the accusations and counter accusations will ever stop. That’s the way the system works. Instead of wasting money chasing someone else’s innovation, you protest and get a ruling first before committing resources to it.
      I suppose with the cost cap a protest before committing resources is even more essential now.

    3. @alianora-la-canta Of course CH’s point being they weren’t winning before because of a flexy wing nor because of too-low tire pressures. They were passing the FIA’s tests as well as Pirelli’s before, and they continue to do so, and they can win nonetheless. Meaning that a stiffer wing and a harder tire didn’t matter, as I’m sure all teams were equally pushing to the limits of the parameters anyway, and even if some were pushing those limits less than others and going more conservative, the differences between the teams in this specific aspects would be minute. Sure take someone’s flexy wing car and compare it to everyone else’s stiff wing car and you might see a bit of a difference, but take someone’s flexy wing car and compare it to other’s whose wing just flexes a bit less, and then change the parameters and there’s little noticeable between them. Same with tire pressures. At France all cars were immediately struggling for grip and tire wear was an issue due to the rained upon track and the wind didn’t help, so it wasn’t down to a rear wing or a tire pressure ‘advantage’ of any one team or driver.

  11. Somewhere in Europe a used car lot is missing it’s top salesman.

  12. Mercedes and especially Toto and Lewis have been for a while and are now almost every weekend introducing new conspiracy theories about Red Bull supposed cheating and it’s getting pretty tiresome. For years we’ve been told how calm and collected the team is and how wonderful their no blame culture is and what maturity comes from the experience of the seven time champion.

    Honestly they should be ashamed of themselves for continuing to demean the sport by their constant accusations. Beat them on track and get over yourselves. Very disappointing from an eight time WCC to behave like this the second they face competition.

    1. @aiii This sort of finger pointing about aspects of others cars is just a part of the sport & something pretty much every team has done in the past.

      Let’s not forget that last year Red Bull kept going on about Mercedes use of DAS which they ended up protesting & threatening to appeal there loss of that protest it & the year before you had Red Bull & especially Max Verstappen openly & continually saying Ferrari were cheating. And let’s not forget how much Red Bull whined about the Renault engine to the point where they are now having to make there own engine after Honda pulled out because Renault didn’t want them back.
      Frankly over the years Red Bull & My Horner have been some of the biggest whiners of them all.

      1. They didn’t. They put in one official protest and the FIA ruled on it and that was the end of that.

        The ready is whataboutisms. It doesn’t matter what Horner or any of the other teams have done in the past, because I was not talking about them, I was talking about Mercedes and their accusations. None of which have been official legitimate protests, just conspiracy theories launched into the ether.

        1. @aiii Agree and not only that, Horner asked for clarification on DAS (was it even an official protest?) before the first race, and specifically not after, for he didn’t think there needed to be a situation where the race result would be called into question via a protest after the race. He asked for clarification, got it, and everyone moved on.

          So @roger-ayles I think there is nothing to forget and it is you that is mis-remembering that “Red Bull kept going on about Mercedes use of DAS which they ended up protesting & threatening to appeal there loss of that protest” That is simply inaccurate.

          1. @robbie It was an official protest, but seeing as it had already been ruled legal at pre-season testing, it was widely seen as just a final push for official clarification than anything else. But after Austria, I don’t remember RB complaining at all. They even briefly flirted with the idea themselves before admitting after Hungary that it would be too difficult to implement.

          2. @randommallard Good stuff. Thanks.

      2. Yes, we need to forget Horner demanding that Mercedes be reined in by the FIA for the last 7 years whilst arguing it was for the good of the sport that RB wasn’t during their successful years. Horner during RB success ‘Complains about front wings must stop’. Just before Max called out Ferrari’s engine. ‘Horner takes a pot shot at Hamilton for calling out Ferrari.’
        Given Horner complaining brings up three times as many hits as Toto complaining and they are both in the tens of thousands I don’t either side has got an argument.
        Oh for the days of gentlemanly conduct displayed by Dennis, Williams, Ecclestone, Chapman, Enzo, etc.

        1. Well it certainly is a known fact that too long a duration of one team dominating is not good for growing an audience and rather tends to diminish one, and as well Horner can speak from experience when they had their winning run stripped away from them with the extreme rules change to the hybrid era, so of course his comments are fair play. Mercedes is lucky they have had such the long run they have, and even the floor change that they purported, only upon seeing RBR so quick, to have been to scupper them as a low rake car, hardly has. And then for next year, everyone’s wings are clipped with the budget caps etc. Mercedes has had little to complain about for years, and that includes this year, as much as they’re trying anyway.

  13. Jockey Ewing
    23rd June 2021, 14:19

    So what does this “engines are homologated” or “can’t bring engine updates means”? How does it differs from an engine freeze?

    Is the current mid-season situation (engines are homologated) means that all of the teams supplied by an engine supplier has to use the same engines? (And therefore if they decide to swap engines at all of their supplied teams, they can bring some kind of engine update? – and only in that case?) This is quite binding, as only 3 engines can be used per season, and IIRC all of the entrants are already installed a second one, thus a new specification could be introduced on the third engine. Imo likely most of the entrants do no plan to use more than 4 power units per season, unless it is absolutely necessary.

    And what about the engine modes? I frequently hear radio messages during a race instructing the driver to use Mode “X” (x=some number). So are these only energy recovery modes, or to some extent they backed off from implementing a one mode allowed per race per entrant rule?

    1. Jockey Ewing My understanding is that the homologation means that the specification of PU brought to Bahrain has to be the same one used throughout the season. There are no hardware updates allowed until the end of the season (I don’t know if software updates are banned/restricted at all though), except for reliability purposes. This is essentially a shorter, one year long engine freeze.

      Then, teams are free to develop the engine over the winter, but the PU brought to Australia/Bahrain/1st race of 2022 is the same piece of hardware then used in every race until the end of 2024, when the new PUs are introduced in 2025. Again, there is an exception for reliability purposes. And I’ll also note before people complain, Red Bull did not ‘push to freeze the engines for 3 years’, the freeze was always planned to take effect in 2023, RB just asked to move it forward, and as a result, the introduction of the new PU’s has been brought forward from 2026 to 2025 as well.

      There is a rule about engine suppliers having to provide the same engine spec to every team they supply. That was supposed to be introduced this season, but I’m not sure if it is a sporting or technical regulation, so I don’t know if it has been delayed like the main 2021 (now 2022) changes. However, they are still not allowed to introduce any non-reliability upgrades, even if all the teams get it at once.

      Finally, I expect that all of the ‘Mode X’ scenarios will probably be referring to ERS modes and electrical systems, because as you point out they are not allowed to change engine modes. And I believe the FIA have access to all the fuel flow sensors and other engine sensors so can see if the conditions in the actual engine itself change.

      (As I say, this is just my understanding of the current and future state of engine regulations. I may be wrong at some points.)

      1. Jockey Ewing
        23rd June 2021, 20:00

        Thank you.
        Yes, I considered the effect of the homologation something ranging from a season-long-freeze to a not much more permissive thing, as it is quite restrictive considering the 3PUs/season rule, the price of the PUs, and that teams are likely shipping spare PUs to the GP weekends, so many of the power units are already built according to the actual specifications, what every supplied entrant runs.

        I expected a bit more permissive rule than a complete freeze during the season, especially as all of the Mercedes supplied teams fitted a new engine for the race weekend at Azerbaijan. (It seemed logical, as at slightly more permissive rules they could have shipped an update then. The current news and this made me to wonder what are the actual rules).

        Imo RB or Honda did a bit better to delay the new engines being fitted one race, as now a long string of power demanding tracks are coming. Azerbaijan, France, now 2x Austria, and then the British GP, are all quite power demanding.

        1. Jockey Ewing
          23rd June 2021, 20:02

          Although of course, reliability is very important, especially if the rules are like this, so occasionally delivering a more reliable engine which otherwise performs similarly is a very good feat by itself.

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