Horner: conversations with F1 race directors should be broadcast


F1 teams have been lobbying the race director for years, and viewers deserve to hear what's being said, says Red Bull boss Christian Horner, following news that the messages will no longer be broadcast

Christian Horner, 2022

Horner was supportive of radio messages to the race director continuing to be broadcast in 2022

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F1 TV viewers should be able to hear messages between team principals and the race director during a grand prix, Christian Horner has said.

The Red Bull boss told Motor Sport that he was against the decision to stop broadcasting the radio transmissions in the wake of last season’s controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Former race director Michael Masi was harangued by team members from Mercedes and Red Bull, including Horner, as he oversaw the safety car period in the closing laps. He ignored regulations to resume racing, handing Max Verstappen the advantage over Lewis Hamilton.

Last week the FIA said that it would restrict team radio communications with Masi’s replacements and no longer make them public.

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Horner welcomed the limits but was adamant that fans should hear what is said by teams as a race unfolds.

“I lobbied very hard and am probably responsible for why the radio [messages] are broadcast,” he explained in an interview following testing in Barcelona. “I’ve always felt it would be interesting for the public to hear what goes on between the pitwall and the race director, with the idea that it would be used less if it was broadcast.

“But such is the competitiveness of what we had last year it did get used. Of course, if I hear another team principal lobbying the referee it is my duty to defend my team.

“So when I heard it at Silverstone [in the wake of Hamilton and Verstappen colliding] I was quite surprised. And of course in Abu Dhabi it was my job and responsibility to push as hard for this team as possible. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I wasn’t doing that.

“Ultimately it’s a good thing they are defining more who can talk to the referee, the race director, and let’s see how it all pans out. But I think it’s something that should still be open to the public because the fans and spectators have a right to hear what is being lobbied. It is a part of the sport.”

Lewis Hamilton crashes into Max Verstappen during the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Max vs Lewis championship battle frequently caused Masi’s channel to crackle

Lars Baron/Getty Images

Horner said that lobbying of the race director has taken place for years, including the period when the late Charlie Whiting was race director, but that viewers only became aware of it last year due to the broadcasting of messages.

“Charlie was adamant he never wanted [them broadcast] because he didn’t want the controversy in the public domain,” said Horner. Because he didn’t want to be in the centre of the story? “He never liked that. But latterly with Stefano [Domenicali, F1’s CEO since the start of last year] he agreed it was a good thing to do.”

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Both Mercedes and Red Bull were heard campaigning hard in messages to Masi last year after several high-profile incidents involving Hamilton and Verstappen.

In Brazil, Red Bull team manager Jonathan Wheatley defended his driver for a robust defence of position at Turn 4 during the fight for the lead.

Mercedes sporting director Ron Meadows was also lobbying for a penalty to be imposed on Verstappen, one that was not forthcoming.

Two races later in Jeddah, incidents including contact between Hamilton and Verstappen meant Masi was bombarded with messages from both teams as the drama unfolded during the race.

But particularly controversial was a message from Red Bull at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, as the race looked set to end under the safety car, which would have made first-placed Hamilton the champion.

“Those lapped cars, you don’t need to let them go right the way around and catch up with the back of the pack,” said Wheatley, encouraging Masi to speed up the withdrawal of the safety car to allow racing on the final lap. “You only need to let them go, and then we’ve got a motor race on our hands.”

Masi did exactly that and in the one remaining lap of racing, a fresh-tyred Verstappen overtook Hamilton for the title. Masi then echoed Wheatley’s message when Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff complained. “It’s called motor racing,” he said. “We went car racing.”