F1 fans were somewhat surprised to see a picture emerge on social media after the Bahrain Grand Prix showing Mercedes boss Toto Wolff and his Red Bull counterpart Christian Horner looking like the best of pals.
The pair have engaged in a number of fierce and often barbed exchanged in recent times, so to them all smiles after the end of a long season dominated by Red Bull was unexpected.
But Wolff insisted that they were still the best of frenemies and remained fierce rival;s when it came to racing - but added that it was only right to acknowledge the achievements of their rivals.
“Friends? The last handshake might have been in 2021 before the last race," Wolff told Austrian publication OE24.
“But you have to recognise the performance of your competitor. I have respect for what the Red Bull team has achieved.”
The photograph in question was taken at Yas Marina where Max Verstappen had just extended his record of victories in a single season to 19 in total. Red Bull finished the campaign over 400 points ahead of Mercedes in P2.
Wolff went on to explain the context of the photograph which arose from an impromptu encounter in the paddock with Horner and his wife Geri who were in a group that included Red Bull co-owner Mark Mateschitz.
“That was on the way out of the paddock," Wolff said. “There was a nice group around Mark Mateschitz, his mother, and a few people I know well.
“I joined them and had a funny chat with Geri, and that’s how the photo came about," he continued.
Horner added an extra detail about the meet-up: I think my wife had just smacked his bum so hard that I think it took him a bit by surprise," he told Sky Sports F1.
“It’s an amusing moment," he added, joking that “You probably can’t see my clenched fist that is out of shot there."
More seriously, Horner said: “It’s been a long season and there has to be competition on track, but there still has to be respect.
“I respect everything he has done and achieved in the sport," Horner said of Wolff. “We’re very different as people and leaders, but that doesn’t mean there’s no respect there.
"I would say we have a professional relationship," he summed up.