F1 war turns ugly as rival teams threaten protest

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has foreshadowed that his team will protest Red Bull’s controversial rear wing at the next Formula One race in Azerbaijan.

The FIA has already announced a crackdown on the wings, which bend backwards at high speed, reducing the drag created by the car, but the more stringent tests don’t take effect until the following race in France.

It leaves teams free to exploit the situation in Azerbaijan, where the street circuit’s long front straight means it provides a bigger advantage than usual.

Lewis Hamilton said in Monaco that he believes Red Bull will gain as much as 0.6 seconds per lap around the Baku circuit.

Speaking to Sky Sports, team boss Toto Wolff explained that Mercedes will take action in Azerbaijan.

“I think if the limbo wings are on in Baku with the advantage that we see, it’s going to go to the stewards,” he said.

“If the stewards are not enough then it’s going to go to the ICA (International Court of Appeal).

“I guess the FIA is going to clarify things before Baku, because if not it could be very messy.”

Wolff dismissed concerns over his own team’s front wing, saying he’s not worried about a counter-protest from Red Bull.

“We’ve analysed the front wings and they are bending exactly the same way, the Red Bull and the Mercedes,” he said.

“We could be protesting each other on the front wings also.

“But it’s clear that the rear wing bends more than it should, under the rules it has been classified as non-conforming, but we are left in a vacuum where a new test will be introduced after Baku.

“It is what it is, but we are pretty robust in our legal position.”

Max Verstappen’s victory in Monaco means he’s taken the lead in the world championship for the first time in his career, while Red Bull also has the edge over Mercedes in the constructors title.

It’s the first time since the 2018 German Grand Prix that Mercedes has not had the lead in the team’s championship.

During the Monaco Grand Prix weekend Ferrari revealed it had been taking advantage of the loophole in the rules, confirming it would need to make changes to comply with the regulation.

“Yes, we are exploiting,” said Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto.

“I think all the teams are exploiting somehow what’s possible, and what we believe is right.

“We will need to slightly adapt. There are some redesigns which need to be prepared to comply fully to the technical directive.”

McLaren boss Andreas Seidl has welcomed the crackdown, but said it doesn’t come soon enough, hinting that he’d also like to see the more stringent testing come into force in Baku.

“They had the advantage already for several races which is something we’re obviously not happy with. But now, allowing them to have further advantage for some more races, is clearly something we strongly disagree with, and where we are in conversation with FIA,” Seidl said.

“We simply hope that FIA shows a very strong hand because from our my point of view it’s simply not acceptable, because it puts the teams that comply with the regulations at a big disadvantage.”

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