Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has questioned the character of long-time F1 rival Christian Horner following his comments about an approach from seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton with regard to a seat at Red Bull
In an interview with the Daily Mail this week, Horner claimed that earlier this year a Hamilton representative, understood to be his father Anthony, contacted him to enquire whether Red Bull would be interested in signing the 38-year-old Briton.
This was at a time when Hamilton was involved in protracted talks over signing a new deal with Mercedes which has been his home since 2013.
Horner also said that Hamilton had held “serious talks” with Ferrari chairman John Elkann around the time of the Monaco Grand Prix in May.
The bottom line for Horner was that Hamilton and Max Verstappen would not work as a partnership as “the dynamic wouldn't be right”.
Hamilton has since strongly refuted Horner's claim, stating he has not spoken to him for years, and that no one from his team had “reached out to him”.
In a select group interview with Wolff, including Speedcafe, ahead of this weekend's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the Austrian has been left bemused as to why Horner would make such remarks.
“I just don't know what drives the guy,” said Wolff, whose relationship with Horner has often been strained. “We just don't understand his thinking to come up with these things.”
Clarifying what unfolded, Wolff added: “What happened is that Christian, through an agency that we work with, wanted to have Lewis' contact details to speak about the seat. That's how the whole thing went.
“It was Christian enquiring about Lewis' availability. Lewis had an exchange with Christian, which he immediately told me about, and which was not about a seat but it was just blah.
“I don't know what drives him to come out with this.”
Wolff was further dismayed by Horner's latest opinion over the highly contentious conclusion to the 2021 season when a late safety car helped Verstappen beat Hamilton to the title.
Wolff was enraged at the time, questioning the decisions of the then FIA race director Michael Masi.
Speaking on Sky's A League of Their Own programme, Horner claimed “Mercedes f****d up”, as “they left poor Lewis out there on tyres that had done pretty much most of the race and we pitted with Max so he was on a fresh set of tyres”.
Horner additionally quipped that Wolff's anger on that occasion was a result of him “having a bad hair day”.
That has left Wolff further exasperated, particularly at the end of a year when Red Bull has crushed the opposition, winning 20 of 21 grands prix, a third successive drivers' title for Verstappen, and a second consecutive constructors' crown.
“You've won the season, be happy about it, humble, enjoy it,” said Wolff.
“Don't come out with comments about Abu Dhabi 2021, which are completely off the mark…(sighs)….character question.
“I just wonder what's going on up there.”