Red Bull principal Christian Horner has been given an official reprimand for comments that he made after qualifying at the Qatar Grand Prix.
He was judged to have broken the FIA’s Code of Sporting Conduct when he described the official who waved a double yellow flag as 'rogue marshal'. Red Bull’s main driver Max Verstappen was given a five-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race for ignoring the standing instruction to slow down in such circumstances.
Horner apologised. He admitted that the comments were made in the heat of competition, and that, in general, he thinks marshals, all of whom are volunteers and have day jobs, do a fine job.
However, he has now been sanctioned and ordered to participate in the 2022 FIA International Stewards Programme in February next year.
Formula 1 race director Masi has made it clear that Horner’s comments were unacceptable, and has made it clear that he wanted to set a precedent and was determined to defend every volunteer official.
Without thousands of them who are prepared to give up huge amounts of their time, the sport may not even exist in its current format.
It is just the latest in a series of incidents between the two Championship rivals, Red Bull and Mercedes, as both the Driver’s and Constructors Championships held towards the last two races of the season balanced on a knife edge.
Nothing personifies the bitterness of the rivalry than the relationship – and increasingly the lack thereof – between Horner and his opposite number at Mercedes, Toto Wolff.
The two men have developed a strong mutual antipathy for each other. As the tension grows, so the tendency for both teams to perceive bias in the officiating of races grows.
The week before, at the Brazilian Grand Prix, the calls had gone in Red Bull’s favour. But while there may be sense that Qatar saw a levelling-up, it should be noted that the second Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas also receives a grid penalty for ignoring a yellow flag.
With tempers close to breaking point, it is perhaps a good thing that there is a week’s break before the Saudi Grand Prix, time for everybody to cool down a little.