Red Bull says Mercedes sidepods seem legal, but Horner has inflation concerns for F1

Red Bull F1 inflation
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Shifting the conversation to inflation impact on F1, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner sees nothing illegal in the new-look Mercedes car and is far more concerned how Formula One’s budget cap will impact teams given the “circumstances we have in the world.”

The cap was reduced from $145 million (132 million euros) to $140 million (127 million euros) this year and drops to $135 million (123 million euros) next year. The decision made in 2020 was to improve competition, giving richer teams like Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull less of an advantage.

But with the ongoing war in Ukraine, rising inflation, energy prices and interest rates going up, Horner is worried the budget cap is now unrealistic.

“I think it’s a very real problem because we’re already seeing extremely high inflation. What you have to remember is when the budget cap was set back in the midst of the pandemic – in the middle of 2020 – nobody could have foreseen the circumstances we have in the world today,” Horner said Friday at a news conference during preseason testing in Bahrain (where Kevin Magnussen made his return with Haas F1).

“What we see going on in the world is only going to drive prices one way. Inflation looks like it could hit record amounts. We’re seeing that impact already, on things like air freight just to this event.”

Horner urged F1 to respond quickly.

“I think it’s a very serious problem that we have to look at and address because this has an impact on people’s jobs and livelihoods,” he said. “I think it’s the duty of the regulator to look at this with a degree of urgency to make sure the relief is put in place.”

Horner was also asked about the new upgrade to the Mercedes W13.

The sleeker car has attracted much attention in the paddock because it has much narrower sidepods compared to testing in Barcelona two weeks ago. The triangular slit for the radiator inlets could improve airflow by providing a higher cooling speed, and thus improving downforce.

“What’s so good about this sport is you get a clean sheet of paper, you get 10 different interpretations (from teams),” Horner said. “Obviously Mercedes have come up with an extreme one that’s a different interpretation. To answer your question whether we think it’s legal or not: yes, absolutely. It looks like it ticks all the boxes.”

Horner flatly denied telling a German publication earlier this week that he thought the upgrade was illegal.

“Comments have been quoted that certainly weren’t made,” he said. “As far as we’re concerned the Mercedes car looks like it complies with the regulations. It’s just a different interpretation, a different solution.”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said Thursday there were no issues, and that the design had been cleared by governing body FIA. But F1’s managing director Ross Brawn and Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto expressed surprise at the new development.

Horner, whose star driver Max Verstappen won the world title last year, offered more thoughts on the W13.

“It’s very innovative what Mercedes have come up with. It’s quite a different concept to what we’ve pursued and some of the others have,” he said. “It shows the creativity that exists even within constrictive regulations in Formula One, that very different solutions are coming out. Now whether it’s the right one or whatever, only time will tell.”

For anything to be changed to cars during the season, eight of the 10 teams must agree as well as F1 and the FIA.

Verstappen begins his title defense on March 20 in Bahrain.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.



Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III