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Zak Brown

How Brown created the latest Wolff-Horner spat

One comment from McLaren CEO Zak Brown has laid the seeds for the latest spat between Toto Wolff and Christian Horner.

Horner Brown Wolff
To news overview © XPBimages

The proverb "All fair's in love and war" is usually associated with John Lyly's 1578 novel Euphues.

If we were to take that and translate it to Formula 1 some 446 years later, it could be considered that ruffling the feathers of your rivals, deflecting attention away from yourself and putting it on your old rival is all part of the game.

Since the white-hot title battle of 2021, it is safe to say that Toto Wolff and Christian Horner are probably not on each other's Christmas card lists, with the two often trading words on whatever the topic happens to be.

Given the competitive state of Mercedes at the moment the ongoing tensions at Red Bull, including the impending loss of Adrian Newey, and the fact that Wolff is openly courting Max Verstappen as his Lewis Hamilton replacement, it would make sense for the Austrian to try and further destabilise Red Bull.

But over the Miami Grand Prix weekend, it was not Wolff, but McLaren CEO Zak Brown, who with a simple comment in the FIA Press Conference laid the foundations for the latest spat between his Mercedes and Red Bull counterparts.

What did Brown actually say?

Brown's initial comments were triggered when he was asked about the impending departure of Newey and whether he was surprised at the long-serving chief technical officer's decision to step away from Red Bull.

"Am I surprised? Six months ago, I would have been surprised. I think given everything that's gone on since the start of the year and knowing Adrian pretty well, and he's a very high-integrity individual, I'm not surprised he's moving on," he told media including RacingNews365.

"The stuff that's going on there is a bit destabilising. It's probably the first domino to fall. My guess is not the last based on the resumes that are flying around."

Later when further pushed on his initial comments, Brown confirmed that "we've seen an increase in CVs coming our way from the team.

"People want to work for people like Adrian Newey and work alongside him.

"I think they will be missing what he brings to the team from a pure technical point of view, and then I think the leadership and the excitement people get from working with him will be missed."

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Wolff prefers to focus on Mercedes

Wolff was relatively sanguine about the situation when Brown's comments were to put him, but did back up the claim made by the McLaren CEO.

However, he decided not to turn the screw even further, instead focusing on Mercedes' own plight and how to rebuild the team into race-winning and championship-challenging position.

"Zak is absolutely correct, we are seeing Red Bull CVs through all the levels," Wolff explained to media including RacingNews365.

"But I would say that this is nothing out of the ordinary, people change teams, want to change environment, so I've come to the point where I'm not really interested in what is going on there with the leadership, I'm not listening to anything anymore.

"It is important for us to look at our own team, see how we can develop strong people, get some interesting, competent people from other teams into Mercedes, and provide them with an exciting journey to recovery."

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Horner hits back

The same could not be said for Horner as Wolff.

Despite saying he would not want to be drawn into the war of words, the Red Bull chief did exactly that with a barb across the bow of Mercedes when it comes to power units.

Much of Wolff's strategy for trying to lure Verstappen to Mercedes stems from the fact that it aced the last significant power unit changes in 2014, and is looking to do the same again in 2026.

Red Bull Powertrains is Red Bull's in-house engine division, with support from Ford, but there have been claims that the engine is lacking in power, with Horner himself conceding RBPT has a 70-year deficit to Ferrari when it comes to making engines.

That did not stop him explaining how RBPT has been on a sizeable recruitment drive from Mercedes High Performance Powertrains (HPP).

"I think it's inevitable, I think the two [team bosses] involved, they talk a lot. And I'm not going to get sucked into a tit for tat," Horner explained when asked by RacingNews365 for his response to the comments from Brown and Wolff.

"But I'd be more focused on Toto's own issues that he has, and I don't have any concern with the strength and depth [of Red Bull], there's always going to be movement between teams.

"I don't know how many people we've employed from McLaren this year, or how many people [RB] has employed, but from Mercedes, we've taken 220 people out of HPP into Red Bull Powertrains.

"So when we're talking of losing people, I'd be a bit more worried about the 220 people than one or two CVs."

Horner also briefly touched on the future of Sporting Director Jonathan Wheatley, with reports emerging across the Miami weekend that he could be about to leave the team.

RacingNews365 understands from well-placed sources that there is no truth that Wheatley will depart.

"I mean, there's rumours about everybody, but contracts between individuals, the terms and conditions, is not something that we really talk about to the public," finished Horner.

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