Silverstone crash cost Red Bull $1.8m (1.3m)

23/07/2021
NEWS STORY

Reflecting on last Sunday's controversial British Grand Prix, Christian Horner addresses a number of issues not least the fact that the crash cost his team $1.8m (1.3m).

In his team debrief, the Briton addresses a number of issues, including the crash itself, the reaction from Mercedes and an update on Max Verstappen.

"That was the biggest accident Max has had in his racing career and the first, and hopefully last time he's hospitalised," says Horner.

"When Max was unable to respond on the team radio, time stood still," he admits. "In that moment you forget everything else apart from the safety of the driver, a person who is like family to all of us and it reminds you of the risk and reward in our sport.

"When he was finally able to speak, the relief was enormous and then to see him helped out of the car by the medical team, albeit somewhat dazed and in need of support, was an incredible feeling."

"A huge amount of credit must go to the safety standards of these cars, the Halo and the barrier systems because the impact was such that it actually broke Max's seat. The car could have quite easily flipped over which was an initial concern voiced by the first responding medical team but fortunately it didn't.

"Due to the size of the impact, which was measured with a g-force of 51G, the medical staff needed to ensure there were no internal injuries or neurological concerns such as concussion. Having completed the preliminary checks at the Silverstone Medical Centre, it was decided that Max should be helicoptered to Coventry Hospital for a CT and MRI scan to ensure there was nothing nasty going on internally or neurologically. The FIA issued a statement to that effect as did we, so that everyone was aware of the situation.

"Max was monitored closely and later released from hospital at around 22:00 and was able to travel home the following day. I spoke to him again on Monday morning and he felt like he'd done a few rounds with Tyson Fury. He was battered and bruised but feeling lucky and grateful to the medical team, as we all are, and in true Max style he was already trying to put it out of his mind and look ahead to Hungary."

Referring to the crash itself, he says: "Both Max, myself and other team members received a huge number of messages about the incident.

"Copse is an incredibly high speed corner, one of the biggest corners on the F1 calendar as any driver will tell you, and one to be respected.

"When you look at the incident closely, Max took a wider line into Copse compared to Leclerc when Hamilton overtook him in the race. Hamilton braked late and overshot the corner. He was travelling at such a speed that he was never going to make the apex of the corner and his trajectory through Copse meant he was never going to miss Max, even with braking he ran very wide after the accident.

"Had Max made it through Copse, I don't think Hamilton would have seen him again that afternoon as he learned in the previous day's Sprint Race.

"No matter how experienced or talented, all drivers experience a build-up of pressure at times and this was a moment of extreme pressure for Hamilton in the championship, becoming the hunter as opposed to the hunted, and in front of his home crowd who saw him defeated the previous day at a track that has always been a Mercedes stronghold.

"We all know that these situations can bring out a different driving style and one that is not characteristic of a world champion, but it is at these times that we see the increased risk.

"As for Max, despite being battered and bruised, he will be more motivated on-track and the positives we can take from the weekend are that last year, we qualified a second off Mercedes. This year, we were within a tenth. We had a faster race car and we were able to beat them in the Sprint Race which shows that the team's monumental effort with the support of Honda, has allowed us to close the gap to the seven time world champions and the pressure is on them.

"Michael Masi is the FIA's Race Director; he is the point of contact for teams; he is the referee. You can voice your point of view to him over the team radio and then he may decide to pass it to the stewards or not.

"The stewards themselves are, and always have been, a totally independent body and during the 16 and a half seasons I have been team Principal, I have never walked into the stewards' room in the middle of a race or session.

"It was brought to my attention through the TV broadcast that Toto was going to see the stewards with information he had tried to email to Michael before they had ruled on a penalty. It is a little bit like trying to lobby a jury while they make their final verdict. The stewards are locked away to ensure they are independent of external influence in order to reach their own conclusions.

"So having heard that Toto was lobbying the stewards, I went up to see them and raised the point that neither of us should be there and it was not appropriate for anyone to interfere while the decision making process was underway.

"It is also detailed in the sporting code that this is not acceptable and I am now pleased to see that the FIA have clarified that this sort of lobbying will not be tolerated in the future as it may well pressure the stewards into a decision that is not wholly fair or impartial."

In terms of the 10s time penalty awarded Hamilton, Horner says: "It is no secret that we felt at the time, and still feel, that Hamilton was given a light penalty for this type of incident.

"Given the severity of the incident and the lenient penalty, we are reviewing all data and have the right to request a review. We are therefore still looking at the evidence and considering all of our sporting options.

"The other significant factor is the cost-cap element of this. That crash has cost us approximately $1.8million and an accident like that has massive ramifications in a budget cap era."

In terms of subsequent comments made by Toto Wolff, Horner says: "I would like to respond to some comments I have seen from Toto, who is quoted as saying our comments regarding Hamilton having caused the accident were "so personal".

"I would like to make it clear. This was an on-track incident between two of the best drivers in the world. At the point in time when you have a driver in hospital and the extent of any injuries have not yet been made clear, your car has been written off and the stewards have penalised the driver seen to be responsible, it is natural that emotion comes into play, for all involved, whether you feel wronged or victorious.

"I also felt the narrative that Max was being 'overly aggressive' at that stage was unjustified. You only have to look at the fact Max has zero penalty points on his licence and has not been found guilty of any on-track misjudgements in recent years.

"The aggressive 17-year-old F1 rookie Max Verstappen that Hamilton is referring to is not the Max Verstappen of today, just as Hamilton is not the same driver he was when he entered the sport.

"Both drivers are of course uncompromising in their driving style, but they are both highly skilled drivers with a great deal of experience. The reality is that Hamilton has met his match in a car that is now competitive, and I agree that both drivers need to show each other respect, but Hamilton was the aggressor on Sunday.

"I am also still disappointed about the level of celebrations enjoyed in the wake of the accident," he admits. "The Mercedes team were aware of the gravity of the crash with Max widely reported as having been hospitalised and requiring further checks.

"It is unimaginable not to inform your driver of the situation, moreover to protect your driver in case they do not show the necessary restraint in celebrating, particularly when it was as a result of an incident he was penalised for.

"Hungary will be a different challenge for the car and the team and we will all be fully motivated to retain our championship lead.

"Max won't dwell on anything from Silverstone and wants to do his talking on-track. He is determined to put this incident behind him and use it as added motivation for the rest of the season, as are we."

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Published: 23/07/2021
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