Red Bull team principal Christian Horner sees nothing illegal in the new-look Mercedes car, and is far more concerned how Formula One’s budget cap will impact teams given the “circumstances we have in the world.”

The cap was reduced from $145 million (132 million euros) to $140 million (127 million euros) this year and drops to $135 million (123 million euros) next year. The decision made in 2020 was to improve competition, giving richer teams like Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull less of an advantage.

But with the ongoing war in Ukraine, rising inflation, energy prices and interest rates going up, Horner is worried the budget cap is now unrealistic.

“I think it’s a very real problem because we’re already seeing extremely high inflation. What you have to remember is when the budget cap was set back in the midst of the pandemic — in the middle of 2020 — nobody could have foreseen the circumstances we have in the world today,” Horner said Friday at a news conference during pre-season testing in Bahrain.

“What we see going on in the world is only going to drive prices one way. Inflation looks like it could hit record amounts. We’re seeing that impact already, on things like air freight just to this event.”

Horner urged F1 to respond quickly.

“I think it’s a very serious problem that we have to look at and address because this has an impact on people’s jobs and livelihoods,” he said. “I think it’s the duty of the regulator to look at this with a degree of urgency to make sure the relief is put in place.”

Horner was also asked about the new upgrade to the Mercedes W13.

The sleeker car has attracted much attention in the paddock because it has much narrower sidepods compared to testing in Barcelona two weeks ago. The triangular slit for the radiator inlets could improve airflow by providing a higher cooling speed, and thus improving downforce.

“What’s so good about this sport is you get a clean sheet of paper, you get 10 different interpretations (from teams)," Horner said. "Obviously Mercedes have come up with an extreme one that’s a different interpretation. To answer your question whether we think it’s legal or not: yes, absolutely. It looks like it ticks all the boxes.”

Horner flatly denied telling a German publication earlier this week that he thought the upgrade was illegal.

“Comments have been quoted that certainly weren't made,” he said. “As far as we're concerned the Mercedes car looks like it complies with the regulations. It's just a different interpretation, a different solution."

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said Thursday there were no issues and that the design had been cleared by governing body FIA. But F1′s managing director Ross Brawn and Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto expressed surprise at the new development.

Horner, whose star driver Max Verstappen won the world title last year, offered more thoughts on the W13.

“It's very innovative what Mercedes have come up with. It's quite a different concept to what we've pursued and some of the others have,” he said. “It shows the creativity that exists even within constrictive regulations in Formula One, that very different solutions are coming out. Now whether it's the right one or whatever, only time will tell.”

For anything to be changed to cars during the season, eight of the 10 teams must agree as well as F1 and the FIA.

Verstappen begins his title defense on March 20 in Bahrain.


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