Red Bull, Merc on warpath

SPIELBERG (Austria) • Red Bull team principal Christian Horner yesterday called on Lewis Hamilton to consider changing his approach to racing after knocking Alex Albon out of contention in last Sunday’s action-packed Austrian Grand Prix.

In the aftermath of a tumultuous season-opener held behind closed doors at the Red Bull Ring, Horner pointed at the defending champion’s habit of tangling with his Thai driver and suggested he needed to reflect on his racing style.

It was the second collision between Mercedes’ six-time world champion and Albon in three races and resulted in a five-second time penalty for Hamilton that cost him a podium finish, behind triumphant teammate Valtteri Bottas, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and McLaren’s Lando Norris.

“Alex didn’t have the straight line speed, but he knew he had grip advantage to pass him in or out of a corner,” said Horner, who added Hamilton owed Albon an apology.

“As far as he was concerned, the job was done. He was starting to look down the road towards Valtteri when Lewis put a wheel on the inside. So, the question should be asked on what he (Hamilton) could do differently.”

The pair were fighting for second place in the closing laps when Hamilton’s move pushed Albon into a spin from which he recovered, but engine problems forced him to retire.

The pair had a similar collision in Brazil last year, after which Hamilton apologised.

“It’s obviously frustrating for Alex. It’s unfortunate as I think he had a chance to win,” added Horner. “He drove a good race, he didn’t deserve that.”

Hamilton, who was handed a three-place grid penalty before the start for a qualifying breach, told Sky Sports F1 television it was “a really unfortunate scenario”.

Horner also said the problem that caused Albon to retire was a “totally different” issue to the technical one which had earlier caused teammate Max Verstappen to stop his race.

“It looks like something on the power unit side with Alex,” he said.

Asked for any positives from the weekend, he added: “That it’s over.

“Coming out with zero points having been in a position to challenge for a victory with Max (who started second) early on… And for Alex to come away with zero points, feels pretty brutal.”

The next race will be the Steiermark Grand Prix on Sunday, also at the Red Bull Ring.

It remains to be seen if Red Bull can solve their car issues, but what is clear is that they have started on fiery terms with Mercedes.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has warned Red Bull that “the gloves are off” after being on the receiving end of several protests.

Last Sunday morning, Red Bull protested against the decision not to punish Hamilton for ignoring yellow flags during qualifying.

Stewards reviewed the incident using evidence from Red Bull and he was given his grid penalty, dropping him from second to fifth.

This followed Red Bull’s protest on Friday against Mercedes’ dual-axis steering (DAS) system, which was later rejected.

Wolff said the penalty handed to Hamilton was “harsh” and, when asked about the challenge of Red Bull, sent a very clear message.

He said: “I thought the protest on Friday was fair play, but not on Sunday. Coming back on Sunday morning, turning around a decision from yesterday by digging out a different camera angle, but we have to take that on the chin. The gloves are off.”

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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