Red Bull Racing team principal believes that Formula 1’s governing body, the FIA, has no choice but to investigate and potentially sanction Sebastian Vettel for his colourful pit-to-radio messages that were broadcast in the closing stages of the Mexican Grand Prix.
The German vented his spleen – with a number of expletives – in the final laps of the race after Max Verstappen ran off the circuit at Turn 1 and rejoined still in front of his Ferrari.
In one excerpt, Vettel – clearly believing that Verstappen should have redressed his error by handing over third place – was heard to direct his frustration towards FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting.
“Here’s a message for Charlie: **** off! Honestly, **** off!”
This prompted Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene to intervene and urge his star driver to calm down.
The comments attracted plenty of criticism in the paddock. Verstappen, the target of Vettel’s ire, described his outburst as “childish”.
Horner, meanwhile, took a more measured approach when asked about the conduct of his former driver, who won four successive Drivers’ Championship titles between 2010 and 2013 with the Milton Keynes squad.
“In the heat of the moment there’s always going to be emotion from the drivers. In other sports, I’m sure if football players had microphones on their language would be an awful lot bluer than what’s going out on the track,” he said to the media after the race.
“But in any sport what you can’t do is give abuse to the referee, essentially. So I would be surprised if that went unreprimanded. That is [ultimately] an issue for the FIA.
“It’s not an attribute he [Vettel] had when he drove for us. Obviously [it’s] frustration he is vocalizing, and everybody can hear that.”
Speaking after the FIA Stewards’ decision to hand Vettel a 10-second post-race time penalty that stripped him of the podium he inherited from Verstappen which now went to Ricciardo, Horner was pleased to see justice – of sorts – had been achieved.
“It was a frustrating end to the race because it was such an exciting crescendo. We didn’t feel that Max had gained an advantage under braking for Turn 1,” he reflected, speaking of the background to Verstappen’s penalty.
“He’d obviously locked up, gone straight on through the grass, come out ahead of Sebastian. But if Sebastian had been alongside him, or making a passing move on him, then perhaps we would have understood more that penalty. It was no different to Lewis’ issue at the beginning of the race where he actually did come out further up the road. So we sought clarification from Race Control and they said they wanted to have a further look at it and establish who was ahead. So we left Verstappen in position without having a directive to let Sebastian go.
“In the meantime Daniel went to make a move into Turn 4, and a clear movement was made on the brakes. So Sebastian has ended up with a 10-second penalty that has now elevated our drivers to third and fourth.
“So we have the slightly unusual scenario that Max finished third on the road, made it as far as the green room, for Sebastian to then go on the podium and take the plaudits, for Daniel to be taking the trophy home. So maybe he will go up there with his shoe and the trophy on his own. I am glad to see that the stewards have made the right decision regarding the Ricciardo/Vettel incident.”
A change in circuit design to further discourage drivers from running off-track is also worth considering, Horner added.
“I definitely think there’s an argument for a gravel trap because if you end up in the gravel you either lose an enormous amount of time or you’re out of the race,” he added.
“I really think it’s something that should be looked at for corners such as Turn 1 to see if gravel is a better deterrent than large tarmac run-off areas. It remains too open to interpretation because why was Max’s move any different to Lewis at the chicane in Monte Carlo or Lewis on Lap 1 here? You’re leaving it constantly up to stewards interpretation on individual events. If there’s a gravel trap there they pay the price, it’s as simple as that.”
Image via Red Bull Content Pool