Christian Horner has forcefully denied that Red Bull’s increased collaboration with its rebranded sister team, AlphaTauri, will result in a “pink Mercedes” controversy.
The announcement earlier this year that AlphaTauri would be increasing its reliance on Red Bull components within the confines of existing regulations raised eyebrows among rival teams, particularly the nature of the collaboration between the two Red Bull entities.
During the final race weekend in Abu Dhabi, concerns resurfaced about the extent to which Red Bull would exert control over its sister outfit.
Some observers at Yas Marina speculated that AlphaTauri's recent surge in new parts was intended to aid Red Bull in developing its RB20 for 2024, given the restrictions on wind tunnel and CFD time that were imposed this year on Red Bull as a result of its 2021 budget cap violation.
The notion of AlphaTauri becoming an extension of Red Bull has stirred memories of 2020, when Racing Point, now Aston Martin, was fined 400,000 euros by the FIA and docked 15 championship points for copying Mercedes' 2019 rear brake ducts.
The car's overall resemblance to Mercedes' W10 earned it the moniker "pink Mercedes" due to its livery color.
But in Abu Dhabi, Horner vehemently dismissed any hints of underhanded collaboration, asserting that both teams operate within the regulations.
"We're an awfully long way from a pink Mercedes,” Horner stated.
The Briton’s comments aimed to assuage concerns that Red Bull's increased influence over AlphaTauri could lead to an unfair advantage and disrupt the competitive balance in Formula 1.
Horner emphasized that the collaboration would adhere to the established rules and that both teams would maintain their distinct identities.
“There are some transferable components which are clearly listed within the regulations you’re allowed to supply, and that’s what they get,” he said.
“When you look at the car, there are quite fundamental differences between that car and a Red Bull Racing car. And arguably, there are other cars on the grid that are far closer in concept (to the RB19) than AlphaTauri is.
“You’ve only got to look at an Aston Martin, or even a McLaren. If you look around the rear suspension of a McLaren, it’s very close in concept to that of our own.”
The collaboration is expected to provide AlphaTauri with access to Red Bull's technical expertise and resources, potentially boosting its performance and competitiveness in the upcoming season.
“Of course, there are certain components that we can supply, as is the case with Mercedes and Ferrari that supply current grand prix teams with gearboxes, suspensions and simulation tools, and wind tunnel [time],” added the Red Bull team principal.
“That is an identical relationship between the companies, and of course, it is then down to them how they use those tools.
“You can see that McLaren has used the tools, in certain respects, better than their supplier [Mercedes] has done in half of the year.
“It’s really down to them how they make use of what they’re permitted within the regulations.”
Queried on Red Bull and AlphaTauri’s alliance, Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff admitted that he had yet to investigate the matter. But the Austrian is confident in F1’s policing and “transparency”.
"I have to be honest, I only saw that Tsunoda was sixth in [Abu Dhabi qualifying] and they've come on strong which makes me happy for the fans of AlphaTauri to go out on a high," Wolff commented at Yas Marina.
"But this is a transparent world. I haven't looked at any components, and am sure that others will and then we will take it from there.
"But honestly, I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about it."