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Max Verstappen

Horner: Mercedes 'media machine' pushing 'clear narrative' against Verstappen

Christian Horner has praised Max Verstappen for dealing with the intensity of this year's title fight against Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes.

Verstappen Abu Dhabi 2021
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To news overview © Red Bull Content Pool / Getty Images

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has called out what he feels is a "very clear narrative" being aimed at Max Verstappen as the Dutchman takes on Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes for the 2021 world title.

Verstappen was hit with two penalties in last weekend's controversial Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, with Hamilton at one stage calling his rival "f**king crazy" over the radio.

Ahead of the championship showdown in Abu Dhabi, the FIA have sent a warning to the entire grid about their on-track behaviour, with several ex-F1 drivers turned pundits raising the prospect of a title-deciding clash.

Hamilton has used "every tool" available

In a select media session, which included RacingNews365.com, Horner was asked if he reckons a narrative is being pushed by Mercedes to put pressure on Verstappen, and whether this also catches the attention of the stewards.

In response, Horner said: "Lewis is a seven-time World Champion. He's the most successful driver of all time. He has a standing, obviously, within the sport. What he says carries a lot of weight.

"I think that he has used every tool available to him to put Max under pressure. You don't become a seven-time World Champion by not being a competitor like he is."

Horner continued: "Backed up by the Mercedes media machine, a huge amount of pressure has been placed on Max.

"What you've got to remember with Max is he's just a young lad. He's a 24-year-old that drives with bravery, with passion, with skill, with determination. He's just a guy living his dream, doing his job.

"He's up against not only Lewis, but a huge machine in Mercedes-Benz. I think all credit to him [for] the way he's handled that pressure this year and hasn't been drawn into it, hasn't been sucked into it.

"He's just gone about his business and he hasn't changed - from Bahrain to Saudi Arabia - his approach for how he goes racing."

"An energy drink company going racing"

Horner added his belief that Mercedes will be feeling "uncomfortable" at the prospect of being beaten by an "energy drink company".

"If you think of the size of Mercedes globally, they must be one of the biggest automotive companies in the world," Horner commented.

"The power that they wield with media around the world, I think we pale into insignificance in comparison. As Lewis Hamilton indeed called us, we're just an energy drinks company going racing.

"I think that Mercedes, the Mercedes Formula 1 team, they've become a machine the last seven or eight years, during their period of dominance, and obviously have the weight and power of the parent company behind them.

"I can't believe it's particularly comfortable being beaten by an energy drinks manufacturer, as a major OEM. That's never sat comfortably. We know that - they've made it quite clear to us.

"We're a team of racers. We're going racing and we've got a phenomenal driver who has driven his heart out this year.

"It's been intense on track and off track, and I do think that the spotlight, even the narrative in the last week of this 'Mad Max' scenario, calling him crazy - there's been a very clear narrative."

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