Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has questioned the legality of Mercedes’ rear wing, believing that it flexes too much, giving Lewis Hamilton an aerodynamic advantage over his bitter rival Max Verstappen.
Hamilton’s car has gained pace during recent rounds, and Horner told Sky Sports: “Since Hungary, there’s been a step-change in straight-line speed which has gradually been getting greater and greater.”
Horner has announced that Red Bull will protest to the FIA if they believe the wing is not in compliance with regulations, as they believe Mercedes are using score marks.
Mercedes trackside engineer director Andrew Shovlin, meanwhile, told Sky Sports: “From our point of view, we’re absolutely happy with what we’ve got on the car, we’ve invited the FIA to have a look as much as they want and they don’t have any issue.”
Red Bull believe that the rear wing was key in helping Hamilton win the Brazilian Grand Prix, from 10th place on the grid.
Hamilton had his qualifying times deleted after he was disqualified from the session due to having an oversized DRS gap on his rear wing. He then went on a thrilling drive during the sprint qualifying session, aided by his superior speed, to finish fifth, but he was required to serve another five-place penalty as he took a new internal combustion engine.
Hamilton carved through the field, overtaking his teammate Valtteri Bottas, who started on pole, on just the fifth lap. He would go on to battle with Verstappen for the majority of the race, and the pair had another controversial incident on the 48th lap, where the Dutchman pushed Hamilton off the track to defend against the Brit.
Verstappen received no penalty in the race, and Mercedes appealed against the decision post-race, but it was dismissed by the FIA. The incident was the pair’s third in the three weekends that have featured sprint qualifying, after their crashes at Silverstone and Monza.
Hamilton eventually managed to pass Verstappen to take his 101st win.
Going into this weekend’s inaugural Qatar Grand Prix, Verstappen’s championship lead has been cut to just 14 points, and Toto Wolff and Horner have shown that they will do everything within their power to give their team an advantage.
Horner stated: “Relationships and respect are different things. I don’t need to go to dinner with Toto or anything like that.”
A Red Bull protest is unlikely to come in Qatar due to the circuit’s nature, but it is almost a certainty at the season’s final two races in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, where the rear wing and straight-line speed could give Hamilton a huge advantage.