‘Like being at the local market’: Christian Horner lifts lid on negotiations with FIA

Red Bull were twice asked to hand back a position to Lewis Hamilton in a chaotic Saudi GP

Tom Kershaw
Tuesday 07 December 2021 09:29
Verstappen and Hamilton go into F1 season finale level on points

Christian Horner has compared Red Bull’s negotiations with the FIA during last Sunday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix to being at a “local market”.

After the race was called to a halt for a second time due to a red flag, Formula 1 race director Michael Masi asked Red Bull sporting director Jonathan Wheatley if they would accept moving Max Verstappen down a grid position for the restart.

Verstappen had overtaken Hamilton after the first restart but only by running off the track around the outside and gaining an unfair advantage.

Wheatley effectively asked Red Bull to consider giving back the place or else risk intervention from the stewards, who would have had the power to hand Verstappen a penalty.

The communication between the FIA and the Red Bull director was broadcast live on television.

“There was this pretty surreal discussion between Michael and Jonathan, which was like being at the local market with a bit of trading for position versus penalty,” he told Motorsport.com.

“We found ourselves on pole, but it was unusual and we were discussing that during the race, I guess it happens during the races, not necessarily bartering, but during the race you would have a discussion where you are advised to give a position back.

“And if you don’t, then it could go to the stewards and you could get a penalty.

“I guess it’s not too dissimilar, but it was fairly exciting to have that during the red flag - and a bit surreal.”

Red Bull did eventually accept the offer in one of several flashpoints during the race between Verstappen and Hamilton.

Verstappen ran Hamilton off the track on lap 37 after the Briton had finally gained enough ground to attempt a pass.

Red Bull were against instructed to concede the position, however, Verstappen’s sudden braking caused Hamilton to make contact with the bar of his car, damaging the Mercedes’ front wing.

Hamilton did eventually prevail to ensure the pair will head into the final race of the season tied on points, however, the prospect of controversy looms large in Abu Dhabi, with Verstappen set to clinch the title if a crash means neither he or Hamilton win the race.

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