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Wolff wary Red Bull's Mercedes protest may tarnish opening race

AFP logoAFP 7/3/2020 AFP
Christian Horner, Toto Wolff looking at a computer: Wolff (right) with Horner at the 2018 Austrian Grand Prix © GEORG HOCHMUTH Wolff (right) with Horner at the 2018 Austrian Grand Prix

Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff on Friday urged his Red Bull counterpart Christian Horner to be wary of the potential dangers created by a technical protest at this weekend's season-opening Austrian Grand Prix.

Horner said he intended to seek clarification of the legality of Mercedes' innovative dual-axis steering system (DAS) from race officials.

Wolff said he respected Horner's position, but added that he hoped the sport's comeback race after the Covid-19 pandemic would not be overshadowed by a technical argument on Sunday night.

"I think Christian is going to take the right actions," he said.

"Controversy and different judgement on engineering innovation has always been a part of Formula One and this is what's to be expected in a way and it's part of the risk.

"All teams are pretty much aware that we are in a sensitive situation with going racing. It's the first race and I think, on one side, it's fair enough to seek clarification.

"On the other side, we are aware that we don't want to end up with a big debate on Sunday."

Red Bull said before the original cancelled season-opener in Melbourne that they would protest the DAS system, which allows six time champion Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas to adjust the toe angle of their front wheels by pushing and pulling the steering wheel.

"It's a very clever system," said Horner. "All credit to the ingenuity behind it, but I think the fundamental question for us is -- does it comply with the regulations in what is a fundamentally grey area?

"Obviously, we want clarity on it because it does have an impact regarding the rest of this year. It's something that's been outlawed for next year.

"But the question is: is it right for this year? So these are the questions that we'll be asking of the FIA (International Motoring Federation) through the necessary channels."

Wolff added: "I respect Christian's position. Clarification is always good. We think we are on the right side. There was a lot of talking and exchanges with the FIA.

"That is the reason why we have it on the car. So we will both bring our arguments forward and then let's see."

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