A Red Bull Rebellion?

Shortly after the International Tribunal announced its verdict, Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner was tight lipped about the reprimand and ban from the Young Driver Test issued to Mercedes.

Apparently he’s decided to now vent.

I can understand his frustration.  Mercedes ran an illegal test, and their punishment was to lose access to a subsequent test.  Is this a perfect outcome? No, but there isn’t one.  But it’s proportional.

Red Bull have repeated the position that Mercedes struggled in Barcelona and then as a direct result of the illegal test, dominated in Monaco.  This, as they well know, is pure fiction.  Monaco dominance cannot be directly linked to any gains from the Barcelona test.  Mercedes has consistently demonstrated a strong qualifying car, and as we all know, qualifying position matters most in Monaco. And what happened in Montreal? Perhaps, overcome with guilt, Mercedes turned down their engines. Ridiculous.

And now Red Bull is making noises about running a similar, now clearly illegal, test in protest.  This would be extremely ill advised.  If Mercedes did anything well in this saga, it was their use of a vagueness in communication between themselves, the FIA and Pirelli to extract the cover necessary to escape a devastating sanction. That cover no longer exists.

Red Bull, Ferrari and many others are frustrated with the FIA right now.  There is some merit to this frustration.  It is an organization that seems to be devoid of leadership in all things not related to the FIA Road Safety program.  At  time where massive technical changes are right around the corner, there is a complete absence of leadership from Jean Todt to ensure the sport makes this important transition without unnecessary drama.  In the past, changes and challenges have been worked out with the participation of the FIA President, Charlie Whiting and the Team Principals.  I don’t see this happening today.

The testing framework is the central issue.  Pirelli needs to have tires ready for winter testing on cars that are completely different than anything they’ve used before.  Without benefiting them some tire testing, the FIA and the teams are being completely unreasonable to Pirelli.  The teams are pathologically incapable of making a decision that improves the sport in general, and that’s why the FIA needs to use its position as chief protector of the sport to lead this transition.

It’s self destructive to have teams making threats like this.  It diminishes the dignity of the sport, and is a distraction from the great Championship battles underway.  But the frustration is real, and growing.

I’m optimistic these issues will be sorted out.  The sport has dealt with more challenging problems than this one, but it always boils down to the character and skills of the leadership involved.  The teams need to remember where they are, and what they represent.  And the President of the FIA needs to spend less time lobbying for delegates in the next election and making roundabouts in Kuala Lampur safer, and more time leading Formula 1 through this important transition.

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