Red Bull continues challenge to Merc design
Updated: March 23, 2012, 06:03
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By CHRIS LINES
AP Auto Racing Writer
SEPANG, Malaysia (AP) Red Bull wasn't ready to drop complaints about Mercedes' wing design despite it being deemed legal by Formula One officials, team principal Christian Horner said on Friday.
The dispute between Red Bull and Mercedes rumbled behind the scenes at the Malaysian Grand Prix, with Mercedes returning fire by questioning whether Red Bull's engine mapping was outside the rules.
Red Bull and Lotus queried the Mercedes wing design in Australia but FIA technical delegate Charlie Whiting deemed it within the rules.
"The car has passed scrutineering so you have to assume the FIA is happy with the configuration the Mercedes car is in," Horner said.
But when asked if he would drop the issue, Horner replied "probably not," adding that it was important rival teams knew quickly whether they should seek to replicate the Mercedes design or whether it will be outlawed, either during or at the end of the season.
"It would be nice to come out of this weekend with that clarity," Horner said.
The Mercedes rear wing has ducts that become exposed when the rear wing flaps are open, channeling air back toward the front wing, reducing drag and thereby allowing greater straight-line speed.
Mercedes responded by raising questions of its own about Red Bull, submitting audio recordings of the Red Bull engine which seemed to indicate there were points during laps in which it was firing on less than four cylinders - illegal under F1 regulations.
However, the FIA's data analysis of the injection and firing of the cylinders in the Red Bull, and the degree of throttle opening, did not support that contention.
Mercedes motorsport chief Norbert Haug said "we are not threatening to protest, we just want to understand what is going on."
"If you are not requesting that clarification then you are not doing your job," Haug told Autosport. "This is not a threat of being illegal, it is just clarification. I am very open and straight on that."
Red Bull was playing a central role in several Formula One off-track controversies in the early part of this season.
Aside from the spat with Mercedes, Red Bull and its sister team Toro Rosso stood aside from other teams and refused to sign a letter to the FIA requesting that cost control be written into F1's sporting regulations.
Red Bull and Ferrari had also reportedly been offered special deals to take equity stakes in the F1 commercial entity as part of a restructuring that involved minority stakes being floated on a yet-to-be-determined stock exchange.
Horner replied to those reports on Friday by saying "we don't see the necessity or requirement to have shareholding."
On the issue of cost-cutting, Horner agreed there needed to be reductions to improve the viability of the series' smaller teams but questioned whether the teams' Resource Restriction Agreement or having such restrictions enshrined in the series' regulations, would be the best way to achieve that.
He argued that it would unevenly affect teams depending on their corporate structure. A stand-alone race team like Red Bull accounts for its costs more directly than Ferrari, for instance, which is also a road-car manufacturer and just one entity within the broader Fiat business.
"Red Bull is absolutely fully behind cost control in Formula One," Horner said. "Whether the RRA is the right way to achieve that is the question."
McLaren principal Martin Whitmarsh said he understood Red Bull's position, but said the fact "there are F1 teams that are struggling to survive tells us we are not doing enough" to cut costs.
Ferrari principal Stefano Domenicali said his team was doing well financially as a company but recognized that a strong and competitive F1 was important to its commercial success, and said "we need to put aside self-interest."