Verbal jousting between Mercedes and Red Bull team principals has featured flashes of anger and mutual dislike. When they speak it is for not only the drivers but the pit crews, engineers and mechanics, deers and hundreds of factory staff. Horner is the longest-serving principal in F1, in charge at Red Bull since Wolff has been with Mercedes since Both are well established and accomplished figures but some of their exchanges this season have been a little undignified.
These outbursts have set the tone for an increasingly acrimonious contest. It is clear Wolff and Horner now share that feeling about each other.
Both men have instinctively backed their drivers on racing incidents that remain open to interpretation. As the season has unfolded there have been flashes of anger and claims of injustice from either side. If there was a single moment when the mood darkened it was the accident at Silverstone in July when Verstappen slammed into the barriers at Copse.
The Dutchman was taken to hospital while Hamilton streaked away to victory. The tension — and danger — was ratcheted up further when Verstappen and Hamilton crashed again at Monza in September, the shaken seven-times champion saying the halo on his cockpit had saved his life after the Red Bull bounced on top of the Mercedes in a chicane.
The heat has risen steadily and Horner suggested Wolff was experiencing a new kind of pressure. Will Horner regret those words given the ruthlessness with which Hamilton — and Wolff — have roared back? Wolff aimed to defuse tension — and perhaps take the sting out of questions — by shaking hands with Horner.
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The pre-race mood appears civil, yet guarded. It remains to be seen whether Wolff and Horner will be shaking each other by the hand or by the throat in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
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