Horner 'has learned not to listen too much to what Toto says'

Christian Horner (GBR) Red Bull Racing Team Principal. 05.03.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir, Bahrain, Race Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Coates / XPB Images
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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says that over the years he's learned not to listen too closely to what his Mercedes counterpart Toto Wolff tells the media.

Even though it's just four races into the 2024 season, Wolff said in Japan that Max Verstappen was effectively unbeatable in this year's title battle having already easily won three of the races.

He retired in Australia after suffering a brake fire, but had been leading from pole position at the time. It suggests that if not for the failure, Verstappen would have a clean sweep of victories heading to China next week.

That was Wolff's view in Suzuka where he told reporters that “No one is going to catch Max this year." But Horner didn't think Wolff really meant what he said.

“It's very early to write off your year,” Horner replied when asked by reporters about the comments. “There's still 20 races to go and I've learned not to listen too much to what Toto said over the years.”

Red Bull motorsport advisor Dr Helmet Marko took a similar view of Wolff's comments. “We've only driven four races, there are 20 to go," he said.

"In Melbourne, we saw how quickly everything can turn around," he pointed out. "Ferrari is strong and reliable, we can't write them off yet.” But Marko did acknowledge that Max was certainly in imperious form right now.

(L to R): Dr Helmut Marko (AUT) Red Bull Motorsport Consultant with Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing.
22.03.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 3, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Practice Day.
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“Everything was clear in Suzuka, but then Max drove this incredible fastest lap on worn tyres, not just for fun, but to get his message across: ‘Hello, the rest of you are only there to finish second!’"

"Yes, the form that he had last year has just carried through," agreed Horner. "He's in great shape. He's fit, he is lean and the car is in a great window. You can hear the spare capacity he has in the car.

“He wants to know about not just who's behind him, but who's behind that as well, and what times are they doing," Horner pointed out. "The capacity he has is very impressive."

With Verstappen the preeminent talent on the current grid, it's not surprising Wolff has also raised speculation that Mercedes might try to lure him to drive for Brackley next year despite his seemingly iron-clad contact with Red Bull.

Toto Wolff (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 Shareholder and Executive Director.
05.04.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 4, Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka, Japan, Practice Day.
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Again, Horner had little time to spend on Wolff's stirring, telling Sky Deutschland last week that Verstappen will “100 per cent” still be a Red Bull driver in 2025.

"We have achieved an awful lot together," Horner had previously pointed out. "He’s got a great team around him, he’s got great faith in that team.

“He’s committed to an agreement to 2028, and from the team side - from Max’s side - we’re determined to build on the success we’ve achieved already.”

Despite rumours of an internal rift at Red Bull, Verstappen has also said he has no intention of leaving for Mercedes or anywhere else on the grid before the end of his current deal. "I am very relaxed and very happy at the team.

"The performance is there, so there is no reason to leave," he said, although he didn't totally rule it out. “You never know in general what happens in life, or comes to you, or happens around you or what might influence you."

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