SPIELBERG: Red Bull team chief Christian Horner on Monday called on Lewis Hamilton to consider changing his approach to racing after knocking Alex Albon out of contention in Sunday’s action-packed Austrian Grand Prix.
In the aftermath of a tumultuous 2020 season-opener held behind closed doors on their home Red Bull Ring track, Horner pointed at the defending champion’s habit of tangling with his London-born 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 team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
Hamilton was the central figure of the weekend in every way as the drivers failed to unify in taking a knee to support F1’s anti-racism stance during a muddled group gesture before the race.
“Alex didn’t have the straight line speed, so he knew he had, with the 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, I think it is more perhaps Lewis that the questions should be asked on what he would do differently.”
The pair were fighting for second place in the closing laps race, which saw only 11 finishers from 20 starters and three Safety Car interventions following spectacular crashes.
Hamilton’s defensive move pushed Albon into a spin from which he recovered, but later engine problems forced him to retire.
The stewards blamed Hamilton for the crash, but Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said their decision was “not justified” and added the five-second penalty was unfair.
The pair had a similar collision in Brazil last year.
“Why Lewis needed to stick a wheel in there, I have no idea,” said Horner.
“It’s obviously frustrating for Alex that this is the second time in three races that this has happened to him. It’s unfortunate as I think he had a chance to win.”
For Hamilton, it was a disappointing end to an intense weekend on and off the track during which he and Mercedes were protested against and penalised regularly.
Red Bull complained in vain against their Dual-Axis Steering (DAS) system on Friday and on Sunday bemoaned a stewards’ decision not to punish Hamilton for ignoring yellow flags in Saturday’s qualifying.
The second protest resulted in Hamilton being demoted to fifth on the grid instead of second only an hour before the race when he was the centre of attention as the drivers’ assembled to show their support for the sport’s anti-racism campaign.
Six drivers chose against taking a knee in a rather shambolic and dis-united gesture that saw Hamilton, in a Black Lives Matter t-shirt setting an example supported by 13 of his fellow racers.
In the race, Bottas produced a flawless performance to claim his eighth career victory with Charles Leclerc a surprised second for Ferrari ahead of Lando Norris of McLaren who, at 20, became the youngest Briton to claim a podium finish and the third youngest of all time.
In a race of attrition, both Red Bulls failed to finish as Max Verstappen, who had profited from the pre-race protest to start second on the grid, retired early on with engine problems.