Red Bull threaten protest over “score marks” on Mercedes rear wings in Qatar

2021 Qatar Grand Prix

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says the team will protest Mercedes’ rear wing design at the Qatar Grand Prix over what it believes is a “hidden” means of improving its car’s top speed.

During today’s FIA press conference involving Horner and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, Horner directly asked his opposite number “how do you explain the score marks on the rear wing end plate?”

“I think it is within what is allowed and therefore that’s okay,” Wolff replied.

Red Bull believe the marks allow Mercedes to reduce the drag produced by their rear wings at high speed even when the Drag Reduction System is not in operation. Its chief technical officer Adrian Newey and chief engineer Paul Monaghan have raised the matter with the FIA in recent races.

“Make no bones about it, if we see it on the car here it will be protested,” Horner told Sky. “It’s probably less of a factor here although we obviously saw significant straight-line speed in that [first practice] session again, probably a 7kph difference between our cars, but particularly Jeddah and Abu Dhabi you could have a situation like Brazil where the car is quite simply un-raceable.”

Horner believes Mercedes has changed its rear wing design since the summer break to improve its straight-line speed, which has given it a clear edge in recent races. Red Bull and other teams had to change their rear wing designs earlier in the season after a technical directive was introduced in order to reduce how much they could flex at high speed.

“There’s very specific regulations about this,” said Horner. “Obviously the directives that came out prior to Azerbaijan had material effect.

“I think this is something even more advanced, it’s hidden in the way that it operates so it’s harder to spot from a camera. But you can see the straight-line performance since Hungary, and particularly in the last two grands prix, has gone exponential.

“That obviously concerns us. And that’s why Adrian and Paul have been discussing it with the FIA.”

Wolff said he has no concern about the possibility of a protest. “I think that his opinion is his perspective and absolutely fine within the regulations to seek clarification or protest,” said the Mercedes team boss. “That’s how things are in Formula 1.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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74 comments on “Red Bull threaten protest over “score marks” on Mercedes rear wings in Qatar”

  1. This is all getting a bit ridiculous now.

    1. But it wasn’t ridiculous when mercedes made fia change the rear wings and pit stops and when they claimed Red bull had an illegal engine?

      1. No part of a pit stop is allowed to be automated. Red bull was cheating but no punishment was applied just to to change.

      2. Not to mention getting Pirelli to switch tyres in season..

  2. This is so tedious. It’s a real shame that two teams pushing to the absolute maximum also means that they’re pushing the rules and sportsmanship to and beyond the maximum.

    1. It has always been the same. There is nothing new, really.

    2. Leonard ‘Big Lenny’ Persin (@)
      19th November 2021, 14:58

      Tedious you say? Weren’t you just raging on the other story, and pretty frustrated that they wouldn’t review Max’s move??? 👀👀😂

  3. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
    19th November 2021, 13:15

    It is totally unacceptable for Mercedes to do any development. It is just not fair that their car goes faster in a straight line than ours does. It is just not fair!!

    1. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
      19th November 2021, 13:17

      Mercedes lied. They told us they were not going to do any development.

      1. @andyfromsandy I hope this is sarcasm.

        1. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
          19th November 2021, 13:54

          I made a comment the other day that unless you are English it is hard to know what is and what ins’t sarcasm.

          I should heed my own words.

          Yes indeed sarcasm.

          1. @andyfromsandy Hmmm…… you saying you’re being sarcastic sounded very sarcastic to me.

      2. No one is believing that when there is a WC to win. Now Newey is back his input saw how Mercedes were doing things without him it would never been spotted. So expect a technical directive soon.

      3. @andyfromsandy No one has done wind tunnel development on this season for a while anymore, but other development is another matter.

    2. Horner and Max are losers… can’t accept win neither loss…just babies with lollypops in their mouths…where were the rules when Ocon tried to hold the corner and Max tried to overtake and crashed…even Max tried to physically pushed Ocon after the race to intimidate…just babies..

  4. When the fight is this tight, it’s to be expected.
    If RB protests the FIA has to look into it. Mercedes gains in straight line speed over the last two events have been significant and highly unusual, especially how quickly those gains have been made.
    If it had been Ferrari, some sections of the media and fans would be highly suspicious…
    If I was at RB I would be questioning this too.
    Nothing ridiculous about it.

    1. Well the speed trap and the finish line speed show clearly that Max was 14th to 16th fastest in Brasil. With the McLaren the fastest across the finish line. So it seems that RB are slow, or everyone in front of them have found speed somewhere. So maybe everyone apart from RB need investigation. Particularly the Haas as that was the second fastest in the speed traps.

      1. Horner reassured Verstappen during Sunday’s race that he was 0.4s quicker than Hamilton through the middle sector. Sounds like as usual Red Bull has got a ton of downforce on their car but don’t want to pay the penalty in drag, so they moan about top speed advantages & spend a lot of time & budget on flexible wings, etc.

        1. Yes. whoever is crunching numbers at RB forgot to factor in something in their formula.

  5. I’m not sure why people are finding this strange that Red Bull would be very concerned? They’ve had a marginally stronger car all year, largely taken control of the championships deservedly and now – right at the last moment, Mercedes have done… ‘something’, and their straight line speed is ridiculous. Horner calls it ‘unraceable’ and it is – how do you defend from that? You can’t.

    We all know F1, performance jumps of that level, this late, are enormously unusual. So it’s logical to be highly suspicious? I’m not sure why others aren’t. If Mercedes have found something within the rules then fair play to them but it’s highly, highly unusual and does deserve looking into. Mercedes found Ferrari’s jump in performance suspicious and so did everyone else, and they were justified.

    1. Totally agree

    2. Except Mercedes were not the fastest in Mexico which was just 2 weeks back, but some people have the memory of a fish. There is nothing enormous about their gain, they are changing the engine each 2 races and therefore using aggressive engine mapping. Max was the 17th slowest driver on the straight line in Brazil, does it need an engineer to explain that they were running with very high DF levels? Just look how fast Max was in the second sector in Brazil, he was at average 0.4s faster than both Mercs. Let’s now protest RB over using a 4×4 car in the race.

        1. I don’t remeber McLaren nor Wlliams running Monaco levels of negative lift, and I’m a McLaren guy.

          Also, the way HAM ran at the sprint was just out of this world… he seemed to have more grip and more speed than everybody else on track… where did they got those levels of performance in one week? Engine alone? BS

          The race was… normal if you ask me… 5 laps, 4 places, pretty standard for a Merc to me… then took almost the entire race to get Max…

          Let’s see the TD that comes out!

      1. Mercedes themselves said there were a water leaking problem on Hamiton’s engine in Mexico during. The race.
        That’s why he was slow.
        It’s their own saying.
        Not RBR, not any fan.

    3. There’s no way Hamilton would have overtaken 25 cars to win a race in the Mercedes at the start of the season

      1. @paeschli you are mistaken, he overtook 30 cars to be precise… he was given 25 position penalty, so from 5th to 10th he was demoted with the engine penalty. if you count the times he had to overtake max due to “fair, hard racing moves”, it was around more like 40 cars :)

    4. Well said. Ironically reminds me of the 2012 title fight, the last proper intra team title fight. When Red Bull introduced the Singapore DRS centric update and became pretty much unraceable.

      Does anyone have any pictures of these score marks that Horner is referring to on the Merc rear wing?

    5. Some are wondering if it is a distraction campaign from Red Bull to stop others asking why their DRS flap is acting in such a strange way in the past few races – it’s been getting quite a bit of attention in Brazil and again in Losail as well.

      1. i think one would take too much time on that issue if that one has some trick on that issue themselves to know about it. i dont remember any team changing their flaps three races in a row during qualifying and parc ferme situations… one would also think about the tapes they used themselves to maybe just maybe cover those score marks who knows…

  6. BLS (@brightlampshade)
    19th November 2021, 13:21

    Expect the FIA to back Red Bull here, after all it’s expected now.

    1. FIA doesn’t backup RB without proof they have to investigate if RB claim is right! Same when Red Bull flex rear.

      1. BLS (@brightlampshade)
        19th November 2021, 13:50

        Recent events prove otherwise to be honest.

          1. BLS (@brightlampshade)
            19th November 2021, 15:03

            I feel it would be unlikely that someone could end up commenting on this website without being aware of this last week?

          2. @brightlampshade
            oh they would if those who have very short memory :) also hypocrites like cough, horrrr, cough maaaa.

    2. Yeah they are so biased towards red bull, which is why neither hamilton at silverstone or bottas in hungary got away with deliberately running cars off the track.

      Both should have been dq’d and banned

      1. got away with deliberately running cars off the track.
        Both should have been dq’d and banned

        In that case then Max should be banned for braking too late and running Hamilton off the track in Brazil, right?

  7. I wonder how far away the FIA are from banning Horner and Woolf for a race or two for bringing their mouths into disrepute.

    1. Indeed, maybe that’s the best solution.
      Because it’s less about racing these days and more about drama.
      But then all these F1 sites and YouTube channels wouldn’t get so many visitors and comments, so I think they will be allowed to open their mouths.

    2. A kind of yellow card for un-sporstmanslike behavior would be justified for both

  8. Waah waah Mercedes wash waah red bull.

    Has anyone told them to shut up and race?

    1. As long as certain drivers are able to keep their car on the actual circuit, then I agree.

  9. In a bit to counteract global warming, RedBull uses the excess aluminum from their can making process to make tin foil hats, so nothing goes to waste.

  10. Perhaps Horner should start an investigation against Mazepin’s car as well as it was only 3.6km/h slower than Lewis…

  11. Waiting for the No investigation necessary decision from F1.


    Love it.

  13. N Mazepin 335.5
    M Verstappen 317.3

    Expecting a RB protest any minute

  14. Very interesting! I hope it gets protested, then we can see if Mercedes have broken any rules or not. Of course none of us know if they have, hence the need for an actual protest from Red Bull or any other team. The cars are subject to regular technical inspection, so I really wonder what it is though.

  15. When German broadcaster RTL (which we can see here in Denmark) ended their live free-to-air coverage, I more or less stopped following the races.

    It doesn’t really matter all that much: races tend to be a bit boring, and all the fun seems to take place between races. We are rather amused.

  16. I love this politics. What I don’t like is how FIA keep deliberately delay a simple decision and shamelessly announced it during Horner-Wolff press conference.

  17. Hopefully all this off track drama stays off track and doesn’t affect the title fight between the drivers. Bad enough all the penalties the drivers get for car issues being their control, we don’t need the title decided by a car being disqualified or anything of that nature.

  18. Score marks? Lawdamassy. The Mercedes was in no way the fastest car in a straight in the race in Brazil. The RBR was however one of the slowest. Aided by the media Horner keeps stoking this fake news that Hamilton was “unraceable” due to straight line speed.

    1. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
      19th November 2021, 14:01

      Max ran his ignition down the side of it!

    2. That’s right, Lewis had trouble to get close to other driver on straight in Brasil.
      Everyone has seen it.
      He could only pass in slow section……

      Not only a matter of high speed, but how fast you do achieve it.

      Mercedes asked in early season to look after RBR wing.
      But the opposite is forbiden ? :)

      Just amazed how fan see things in manecheism way
      No matter wich side you are

  19. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
    19th November 2021, 14:01

    There was none of this crying in 2020 when the Merc was the fastest F1 car ever and also un raceable.

    1. Not true. Mercedes was forced to remove DAS from their car after their dominance last year

      1. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
        19th November 2021, 15:37

        That was a clever interpretation of what the steering wheel could be used for. The ruling was made to stop the use in 2021 but not outright banned I believe just clever new wording that would stop its use.

      2. Don’t forget RBR also got the FIA to remove party mode as well…

  20. Get that language out of here.

  21. What are the ‘score marks’ on the endplate? What is it that Mercedes has / hasn’t done? The score marks (sorry to state the obvious), are presumably slots in the endplate which have been permissible since forever. What are we looking at? Is it the Bottas ‘squatting’ thing from the rear facing camera in Turkey again? If so, why would endplates or score marks be involved?

    1. Would like some footage to understand what is being talked about

    2. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
      19th November 2021, 15:39

      In post FP2 Andrew Shovlin said they have looked at the wing are not seeing any marks.

  22. Wow! One can’t take the eyes off the stuff of the other. This compadre fight has been vicious during the entire year! Hamilton-Verstappen rivalry is put in the shade in comparision to that.

  23. Threats of protest are used now, and always HAVE been used, as a means of trying to destabilise the pattern and flow of a competitors preparation for a weekend, just as much (if not actually more) than to actually clarify the application of a rule, Technical Directive, or legality of a new system!

    Its all just part of the game, and has ever been thus.

  24. I miss the “DRS Gimmick” choir!

  25. Score marks are from the torx driver verstappen used to loosen the screws on the right side of Hamilton’s wing, which Mercedes now reports came loose in qualifying. You heard it here first.

  26. Mercedes has given Hamilton an engine which only lasts about 2500km instead of the usual 7500km. They reinforced the combustion chamber for reliability, but in truth this combustion chamber can bear much more pressure. This means that the engine, supposedly reinforced for reliability, can sustain a much higher performance albeit for just 4 races. And that’s all Hamilton needs. This explains his overtaking of 25 cars during the sprintrace, and his enormous overspeed at the straights during the race of about 15-25kmh. The car is illegal because despite the performance gap for 2021 Mercedes has found something called ‘reliability’ which in fact is an engine which can be turned up much further, if only for four races.

    1. I mean ‘performance cap’ instead of ‘performance gap’…

    2. There was no enormous over speed. You can go look at the fia data if you want. We’ll be here when you get back.

  27. FIA Sao Paulo Grand Prix 2021 speed data:

    Speed Trap:

    Hamilton 333.2 kmh
    Verstappen 318 kmh

    Finish line:

    Hamilton 330.3 kmh
    Verstappen 321.7 kmh

    Intermediate 1:

    Hamilton 332.9 kmh
    Verstappen 315.6 kmh

    You may calculate the overspeed yourself if you are capable.

  28. @dmw FIA Sao Paulo Grand Prix 2021 speed data:

    Speed Trap:

    Hamilton 333.2 kmh
    Verstappen 318 kmh

    Finish line:

    Hamilton 330.3 kmh
    Verstappen 321.7 kmh

    Intermediate 1:

    Hamilton 332.9 kmh
    Verstappen 315.6 kmh

    You may calculate the overspeed yourself if you are capable.

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