Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has jokingly claimed that he ‘almost had to squeeze out a tear’ while listening to Christian Horner’s bold claims in Saturday’s press conference at the United States Grand Prix. Horner was grilled by journalists over the budget cap row that has engulfed Red Bull in recent weeks after the Austrian team were found to have been responsible for a minor breach of the 2021 limit by the FIA earlier this month.
Horner staunchly defended Red Bull throughout the press conference and tore into McLaren CEO Zak Brown for writing a strongly-worded letter to the FIA in which he accused them of cheating. The Red Bull chief also claimed that ‘kids are being bullied in playgrounds because they are employees’ children’ as a result of the criticism aimed at the team by the other competitors on the grid.
Wolff was quizzed on Horner’s comments by Sky Germany prior to qualifying on Saturday and took the opportunity to poke fun at his Red Bull rival before doubling down on his criticism of their alleged financial breach.
“I almost had to squeeze out a tear when I heard that,” said Wolff. “The facts are nine out of 10 teams were under the cost cap. One team is now arguing that they slipped over it with supposed non-performance topics, but these apply to all of us.
“We also thought about how many sandwiches we give people & how we deal with various other cost pools. Whatever they’re over, a million, two or five, I don’t know, is a cash value advantage that you can put into development.
“It‘s a bit like reverse psychology, who is the victim. And I believe the victims are the [other] nine teams.”
The saga involving Red Bull’s budget cap breach has dominated the build-up to this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, with the FIA still weighing up their next move in terms of a punishment to be handed down. The range of penalties available means that Max Verstappen could theoretically be stripped of last season’s Drivers’ Championship title, with points deductions for the year in question among the options on the table.
This scenario is thought to be very unlikely, though, with Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko insisting earlier this month that the Dutchman will get to keep his maiden title when Red Bull are eventually penalised.
“As I said, we are still not aware of any guilt, which is why discussions with the FIA are still ongoing,” Marko told F1-Insider.com. “But rumours that Max could lose his world title in 2021, for example, are complete nonsense. The past has shown that even extreme violations of the regulations were punished very mildly by the FIA.”
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