(Reuters) – Mercedes Formula One team boss Toto Wolff branded Red Bull rival Christian Horner a “bit of a windbag” on Saturday as a war of words over “bendy wings” showed no sign of abating at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Red Bull are leading Mercedes by a point in the constructors’ standings after five races and this weekend’s event in Baku has been overshadowed by an argument over aerodynamics.
Mercedes and others have put the spotlight on Red Bull’s rear wing, with accusations that it bends the rules by flexing at speed to gain a performance advantage, while Horner has returned fire on the champions.
“If you are picking on one end of the car, you have to look at the other,” he said on Friday. “You can’t look at one part in isolation and say ‘Oh that set of rules only applies to that element on that car’.
“I think if I was Toto, with the front wing he’s got on his car, I’d keep my mouth shut.”
Asked about the comments, Wolff told Sky Sports television on Saturday:
“Christian is a bit of a windbag who wants to be on camera. It’s easy to be punchy when you are on top of the timesheet, but you should be a little bit more modest I think.”
The Austrian also reminded viewers that Red Bull were penalised for a flexing front wing in 2014, “so I think he (Horner) has a bit of a track record there.”
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen leads Mercedes’ seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton by four points in the championship.
The Dutch driver dismissed the complaints as rivals just trying to slow him down, and he joined Horner in changing the focus from back to front.
“I can understand people complaining … but it’s all within the rules so far. There’s nothing wrong with it,” he told reporters questioning his car’s rear wing.
“I think you have to look at the overall picture, the most important and dominant part of the car is the front, and we are not flexing as much as other teams there.”
Mercedes have struggled to find pace around the Baku street circuit, failing to get either car in the top 10 in Friday practice led by Red Bull’s Mexican Sergio Perez.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London; Editing by Hugh Lawson)