SAKHIR, Bahrain — Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says he has no doubt that Mercedes’ novel sidepod design complies with F1’s regulations.
Questions about the legality of Mercedes’ latest update were raised on the opening day of this week’s preseason test in Bahrain when Horner was quoted by German publication Auto Motor und Sport as saying the upgrade had “gone a step too far” and did “not correspond to the spirit of the regulations”.
However, Red Bull issued a statement soon after the story emerged saying the quotes were “incorrect”.
On Friday, Horner set the record straight during an open news conference by saying his team believes the Mercedes is legal.
“I think it’s interesting, it’s very innovative what Mercedes has come up with,” Horner said. “It’s quite a different concept to the concept that we pursued and some of the others have [pursued].
Mercedes’ radical Bahrain upgrade turned heads this week. Hasan Bratic/DeFodi Images via Getty Images
“It shows the creativity even within constrictive regulations in Formula One, that very different solutions are coming out. Whether it’s the right route or whatever, only time will tell. What we see in F1, there tends to be convergence over a period of time on design philosophies.
“But what’s so good about this sport is you get a clean sheet of paper, you get 10 different interpretations. Mercedes has come up with an extreme one that’s a different interpretation.
“To answer your next question of whether we think it’s illegal or not, yes, absolutely, it looks like it ticks all the boxes.” Asked what had changed since he was quoted by Auto Motor und Sport, Horner added: “I think comments have been quoted that certainly weren’t made.
“I think the car is obviously innovative, it’s an interesting solution. I think 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.
“There’s not really anything that defines the spirit of the regulations, it either complies or it doesn’t. It’s not really for us to judge; the FIA has the access to all of the drawings, a design like that surely would’ve been submitted in advance.
“It’s an interesting concept, it’s a radical concept. Is it quick or not? Only time will tell, but in terms of its compliance, that’s very much an FIA matter.”
Horner said it was too early to judge whether the Mercedes design would yield more performance than the other interpretations of the regulations but said he believes all approaches will come with positives and negatives.
“Obviously visually it’s quite a departure from the concepts that certainly we’ve taken and quite a few other teams have taken,” he added. “That doesn’t mean to say it’s naturally better or worse. It’s just a different interpretation, and of course there’s compromises that have been made with their layout to accommodate that.
“It’s impossible to draw any conclusions other than obviously that it looks very different. For me the car that looks the most settled on the circuit at the moment is Ferrari. I think they’ve had a very strong testing period so far, both in Barcelona and in Bahrain.
“So I would say they’ve looked extremely competitive whenever they’ve been on track. You have to remember that these cars are still very immature, the rate of development will be fast and intense. I expect that to change, and Mercedes are going to be a huge factor in this championship, I’ve no doubt.”