Christian Horner has opened up about his feud with Toto Wolff, including their row in the aftermath of the Silverstone collision between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.
The rivalry between Mercedes and Red Bull erupted when Hamilton tagged Verstappen as they battled for the lead on the first lap of last year’s British Grand Prix. The clash sent Verstappen hurtling into the barrier at high speed while Hamilton defied his resulting 10-second penalty to win the race.
In the aftermath of the incident, Mercedes boss Wolff radioed then race director Michael Masi to defend Hamilton as the stewards weighed up the severity of the penalty, with many of the messages at the time being broadcast to the millions watching around the world.
READ MORE: Christian Horner admits it's 'very easy' to wind up arch Mercedes rival Toto Wolff
Horner said he had already been annoyed by Wolff’s lobbying of Masi at the Spanish Grand Prix earlier in the year.
“It really permeated at Silverstone, where suddenly there was an awful lot of dialogue from Toto to Michael and then he’s sending him an email [in defence of Hamilton’s move],” Horner told the latest edition of F1’sBeyond The Grid podcast.
“I thought ‘right, I’m not having that, I’m going up [to race control]’ because I thought it was incredibly one-sided. I thought that a team principal should not be able to lobby and influence the race director.
“In hindsight, Toto and I had a fairly heated exchange in race control at that event. Toto was obviously arguing his corner, that his driver shouldn’t be penalised. And I’d got a driver in hospital and a car that had been taken out of the race.
“After that race, we should have said there should only be one communication [per race] between team managers and the race director. But at that point, the competitiveness becomes so driven, it’s only natural that you’re going to do the best you can for your team.”
Both team bosses were at it again during the controversial season finale in Abu Dhabi, where Masi’s incorrect handling of a late-race safety car gave Verstappen the chance to overtake Hamilton and pinch the title.
“You’re going to argue for your team as strongly as you possibly can and I guess that came to a head in Abu Dhabi, where Toto, at several points during the race, was trying not to get a safety car. He was trying to steer the course of the race,” added Horner.
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“As soon as you hear that, because I get that transmission, my immediate reaction is defence. And my best form of defence is attack, to say ‘I want to represent our position’ so that it’s not one-sided.
“The last person in someone’s ear has the greatest influence. I think it’s right that has stopped [team bosses being able to speak to the race director mid-race].”
Horner also defended Masi, saying the only mistake he made was not allowing more cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to un-lap themselves and insisted it would have made no difference to the final outcome had he done so.
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