Horner blasts 'underhand' ploy by rival team to steal Red Bull sponsors

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Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has revealed that a rival F1 outfit took advantage last year of the team's cost cap breach and of its subsequent "tainted" reputation to try and lure its sponsors away.

In a high-strong competitive world like Formula 1 that takes no prisoners, teams will fight on the track but also off it, whether its to gain or denounce a regulatory advantage or a commercial upper hand by convincing a competitor's partner to join its side.

Red Bull's sporting success has surpassed that of Mercedes in the past two years, and yet the Milton Keynes-based outfit doesn't enjoy the same fan fervor as its arch-rival, let alone as Ferrari.

Although Max Verstappen can rely on his ever-present orange army for unwavering support, this is first and foremost an individual affair, with very little allegiance to Verstappen's team.

Horner is convinced that Red Bull would have a much stronger connection to F1's fan base "if we had a British driver like a certain team in Brackley".

"We are too easily seen as the bad guys," he told website inews.

While lagging in popularity, the team's commercial affairs have been striving, with Red Bull signing up solid sponsorship contracts left and right in the past two years, and inking a particularly lavish deal with title partner and American tech giant Oracle.

However, last years' budget cap saga for which Red Bull was fined a hefty $7 million for exceeding F1's 2021 mandatory $145 million budget constraint in 13 specific areas.

The team was also handed a sporting penalty represented by a 10% reduction in aerodynamic research, a sanction that Horner called "draconian" at the time.

The sanction caused Mercedes boss Toto Wolff to say that Red Bull had suffered "reputational damage". And at least one team – which Horner would not name – tried to take advantage of the bulls wounded stature by bad mouthing it to its partners.

"It tainted us," Horner admitted, referring to his team's cost cap breach. "These things get used by your rivals.

"We had one of them contacting our sponsors and partners making suggestions that we would be bringing their brands into disrepute. That was just underhand."

"My wife has always said to me a pat on the back is only six inches from a kick up the arse. This is like the Kardashians on wheels.

"As long as you are comfortable with the decisions you are taking. That’s how I live my life."

Whoever believed they could mischievously undermine Red Bull and steal its thunder – they know who they are – has only succeeded in damaging its own goodwill, at least in Horner's eyes.

F1 longest-standing team boss on the grid knows that the conniving, bickering, low blows and sucker punches come with the turf. Horner fully assumes his team's differences.

"We play our music loud and have a smile on our faces," he concluded. "It has to be more than a job. And that has to come from the top.

"An energy drink company taking on Mercedes Benz, Ferrari, Audi and whoever else, but why the f**k not? If we have the right people, the right resources, the right culture why can’t we do it?"

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