Red Bull boss likens Hamilton-Verstappen title fight to Squid Game

The title rivals are locked together on 369.5 points going into Sunday’s final race in Abu Dhabi.
Red Bull boss likens Hamilton-Verstappen title fight to Squid Game

By Mark Mann-Bryans, Abu Dhabi

Red Bull boss Christian Horner has likened the Formula One title fight to Squid Game as Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton battle for the championship in Abu Dhabi.

The pair are locked on 369.5 points in the drivers’ standings, with the Red Bull of Verstappen having the advantage of winning one more race than Hamilton over the course of an enthralling season.

Red Bull and Mercedes are also still contesting the constructors’ championship, although the latter hold a strong 28-point lead in that fight.

However, for the first time since 1974, two drivers enter the last race of a season neck-and-neck and, while Netflix have their own behind the scenes F1 series, Horner instead feels this year has played out like the hit South Korean show Squid Game, which saw competitors try and survive to win a huge cash prize.

 

“I think the mood is one of excitement,” Horner said at a press conference alongside Mercedes counterpart Toto Wolff, a man with whom he has verbally sparred throughout the season.

“I think that the way we have fought the way we have pushed in this campaign, no-one has come close to challenging this team in the last eight years and here we are in the final race in with a shot, a long shot in the constructors and a equal shot with drivers.

“It has been tense, frustrating on occasions, we have pushed the limits, pushed each other and pushed our competitors and here we are at the final race for the showdown.

“It almost feels like Squid Game that we have ended up here on equal points.”

Wolff was magnanimous when asked if he had a message for Horner, the two team principals having exchanged barbs across a campaign fraught with tension.

Mercedes-AMG 2017 Car Launch – Silverstone
Red Bull Christian Horner admits it has got heated between him and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff (pictured) during this season’s title battle (David Davies/PA Images).

“Good luck. May the best man and the best team win,” he said.

“It is exciting, both teams have had their fair share of luck and bad luck and from where we sit it is that team and driver are both married to win.

“The journey so far has been very happy at at times, exuberant and very frustrating in different moments and to find each other here competing on equal points, it is good for spectators but also for us.

“It has pushed us to new limits, they (Red Bull) have done a formidable job this year and that is why it is all-in for this Sunday, whoever wins, deserves to win.

“I think there is mutual respect for the job the other team has done. They wouldn’t be where they are, but it is just too intense.

“I stand for the team and the interest of the team. That can be fierce at times because it is not just the drivers fighting on track, it is a fight for advantages in the regulations and a certain bias comes from different perspectives.

British Grand Prix – Practice Session – Silverstone
Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner, pictured looking on from the pitwall, is hoping Max Verstappen can edge his title battle with Lewis Hamilton in Abu Dhabi.

“I can understand that rationale that if things go against a team or the two drivers I can get quite emotional in the moment and Christian has his own way of dealing with it.

“Two very different personalities but it is just this fight for the trophy, one of the most important prizes in sport, and that is why you cant expect a lot of schmoozing between the drivers ,team principals and the team.”

Horner echoed those sentiments and joked about not spending time with Wolff away from the track over the off-season.

“We are competing for two of the biggest trophies in sport, of course the competition is intense, as characters we are quite different but we have the same intensity and competitiveness,” he said.

“I will defend my team and both my drivers to the hilt because that is what you do, that is who you represent and who you look to protect.

“Yes, there has been competition on track, off track and it has been pushing the boundaries, Toto has done the same from his side, it has got heated but that is sport.

“For me it would be very artificial to sit here or throughout the season and be all smiles with your biggest competitor.  I can’t do that because that wouldn’t be being true or honest.

“It has been an intense competition, it has been intense between the two of us and it will be next year and the year after.

“We have two great teams, separated by 15 miles and the commitment that has gone in has been phenomenal. If they (Mercedes) would slow down a bit it would certainly help!

“Of course emotions boil over, we are in a competitive sport and that is Formula One. I’m not going on holiday with you (Wolff) after this weekend.”

Earlier, Horner had seen Verstappen set the fastest time in first practice at the Yas Marina Circuit, clocking up a time of one minute 25.009 seconds to finish 0.346secs clear of Hamilton, who was third behind his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

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