Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has accused his opposite number at Mercedes, Toto Wolff, of overplaying concerns about the ride of the current generation of Formula One cars.
New technical regulations introduced over the winter have had a knock-on effect on the ride of F1 cars this year, resulting in some cars bouncing dramatically over bumps as well as being susceptible to an aerodynamic phenomenon known as porpoising, which also results in the cars bouncing uncontrollably on their suspension.
On the bumpy street circuit of Baku one week ago, the bouncing issues were so severe for some teams that the sport’s governing body, the FIA, decided to intervene on safety grounds by introducing a technical directive (TD) to police the bouncing.
However, the details of the FIA’s intervention have yet to be finalised and a meeting on the issue at the Canadian Grand Prix on Saturday led to reports of an intense debate between Wolff, arguing for the changes, and Horner and Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto arguing against them.
After the meeting, Wolff labelled his rivals’ position as “disingenuous”, adding that their behaviour in the meeting was “pitiful”.
Horner, whose Red Bull cars have won the last six races and are among the least affected by the bouncing, has long argued that the bouncing is not a matter for the FIA to address but for the teams to sort out independently.
Meanwhile, Ferrari has questioned the validity of the FIA’s recent actions, with Binotto saying the purpose of a technical directive is to clarify rules rather than change them.
“Ferrari presented its position regarding the TD and Toto is campaigning for a change in regulations — which is somewhat ironic because his car looked quite quick today [during Sunday’s race in Canada] with not a lot of bouncing,” Horner said. “And I think it was just pointed out to him clearly that perhaps his issues were within rather than everybody’s issue.”
Asked if Wolff was perhaps playing up to Netflix cameras present in the meeting to record footage for the next season of the docuseries “Drive to Survive,” Horner added: “I think there was an element of theatre going on in that meeting, so maybe with Lewis’s new movie coming along he’s getting in role for it.”
Part of the FIA’s technical directive allows teams to run a second stay between the main bodywork of the car and its floor on both sides to improve the stiffness of the floor and mitigate against porpoising. Mercedes was the only team to test a second stay in Friday practice, but removed it from the car ahead of qualifying and the race.
Given that the technical directive allowing the second stay was only issued on Thursday, both Ferrari and Red Bull have questioned how Mercedes managed to produce the part so quickly.
“What was particular disappointing was the second stay because that has to be discussed in a technical forum and that is overtly biased to sorting one team’s problems out, which were the only team that turned up here with it even in advance of the TD. So work that one out,” Horner added.
Horner stressed that the onus should be on teams struggling with bouncing to modify their designs rather than the FIA tweaking the rules to ease the issues.
“The teams have got some of the brightest engineering talent in the world,” Horner said. “Things will converge.
“I doubt we will be sitting here next year talking about the bouncing even if the regulations were left alone. These cars are still relatively new, they are still as teams add developments to their cars you’ll probably see them start to address some of these issues.
“You can’t just suddenly change technical regulations halfway through a season. If a car is dangerous, a team shouldn’t field it. It has that choice. Or the FIA if they feel an individual car is dangerous, they always have a black flag at their disposal.”