Christian Horner bites back on ‘hard’ Max Verstappen question after Mercedes lose appeal

George Russell joins Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes

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Christian Horner defended Max Verstappen, claiming pundits are being too “hard” on him. The Dutchman received criticism after his role in an incident with Lewis Hamilton at last weekend’s Sao Paulo GP where he failed to make a corner and ran his rival off the track.

After Mercedes’ request to review the incident was denied, former F1 driver Damon Hill quizzed the Red Bull’s team principal on last weekend’s events.

The 1996 F1 world champion asked: “Whose left with the impression now that it’s okay to dive down the inside and use all the road and not let anybody come back on the track?

“Where are we with the driving standard side of things? My personal view is that Max was over the limit in Brazil, now it’s sort of unclear as to where we’re going to be.”

Horner hit back: “Max clearly demonstrated in Mexico that you can pass round the outside. What you had in Brazil was Lewis in a vastly superior car straight-line speed wise, and Max hanging on.

“The fact that he hung on for 58 laps, nobody else could hang on for more than 3 against Lewis. I don’t quite understand why you’re being so hard on Max, and neither does your former technical director.”

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As Horner and his Mercedes counterpart, Toto Wolff, locked horns during a tense press conference afterwards, attention then turned towards what Red Bull will do about the issue of Hamilton’s rear wing. 

“In our mind, they’ve obviously found a clever solution with their rear wing,” stated Horner to Sky Sports.

“It’s the FIA’s job to police it. We [protest] towards Mercedes and we get it back with interest the other way.

“There’s some very, very clear evidence since Hungary, a big change in straight-line speed which has gradually been getting greater and greater.”

Mercedes have the advantage going into what is expected to be a thrilling inaugural Qatar GP.

Lewis Hamilton secured pole position, and was four tenths ahead of the rival Verstappen in second, with teammate Valtteri Bottas in third.

Hamilton revealed he has battled a stomach ache for the past few days, but he was able to fight through and claim one of the most important pole positions in his career.

“Yesterday was a really difficult day for me actually, Thursday and Friday wasn’t feeling too well,” he admitted. “And so really struggled throughout practice and I was just off yesterday, so really had to dig deep. 

“I had a bit of a stomach ache from Wednesday but felt fantastic today. I slept well last night so that makes a big difference.”

Following his blistering final lap to seal the P1, the Brit said: “Then that last lap was beautiful. It was a really sweet lap.

“This track is amazing to drive, incredibly fast on medium and high-speed corners. But it felt good.”

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