Wolff suggests Red Bull face ‘super tricky job’ with ‘luxury problem’

Toto Wolff feels handling an intra-team squabble is difficult as Red Bull boss Christian Horner could discover this year

Toto Wolff feels handling an intra-team squabble will be tricky as Red Bull boss Christian Horner could discover this year

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has warned Red Bull rival Christian Horner that he faces “a super-tricky job” this season handling a potential intra-team F1 title fight between Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.

Wolff knows exactly how difficult such a problem can be, notably when Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were team-mates, leading to a fierce rivalry during the 2016 campaign, in particular.

The duo notably took one another out on the opening lap of that year’s Spanish GP, handing Verstappen his first race win on his debut for Red Bull.

Rosberg ultimately went on to take what proved to be his only drivers’ championship before deciding to retire at the end of the year.

With Verstappen and Perez suggesting their own scrap is on the cards, Wolff said: “From my past, it’s a super tricky job for Christian and the team.

“That’s because both drivers will obviously try to always feel they’re being fairly and equally treated, whilst at the same time trying to have an advantage.

“In our team, it was important to maintain a lot of transparency and clarity and discuss things before we actually went racing on a Sunday, to put boundaries (in place).

“In the end, both drivers, Nico and Lewis, respected the team’s opinion, whilst we acknowledged there was a fight on between the two of them.

“Going back in time, there are things I probably would have done differently in 2016 particularly.

“But getting the balance right between accepting these two guys are racing for a championship, and it’s within the same garage, and at the same time, they are part of a larger structure, that’s not always easy because they are very competitive animals.”

Red Bull unable to control every variable

Perez has firmly thrust himself into championship contention following a superb weekend in Azerbaijan where he won both the sprint and grand prix to close the gap on Verstappen to six points.

The Mexican driver goes into this weekend knowing a victory will take him to the top of the standings for the first time in his F1 career.

As to how he plans to keep a lid on a potential potboiler should things start to spill over, Horner initially quipped: “We will just do everything that Toto says but just a bit better.”

He then added: “No, look, it’s a luxury problem first of all. Any team principal in the pit lane would hope to have that issue.

“It’s something we have experienced before, and the most key thing is – as Toto was mentioning – is to ensure that paranoia doesn’t creep in, that both drivers are treated equally.

“You go to pains to provide equality to the point of who drives out of the garage first each weekend. They even alternate in the debrief as to who talks first.

“But it’s racing, it’s Formula 1, and occasionally something will happen, like a safety car or a pitstop. You can’t control every aspect within the sport. There are still variables.

“So long as the drivers know they’re both getting an equal chance and it’s ultimately down to what they do on the circuit, that’s where you want it to play out, not through unreliability, for example, playing a key role in a championship fight between your two drivers within your own team.”

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