Christian Horner reacts to George Russell accusation, reveals Lewis Hamilton mistake

Mercedes started in a strong position at the Australian Gran Prix but victory quickly fell from their grasp, as Red Bull’s pace came into play.

Lewis Hamilton secured the best result of the season for himself and Mercedes in Australia, finishing in P2 after a chaotic race.

Mercedes had initially shown a lot of promise at the Australian Grand Prix, with George Russell and Hamilton powering into P1 and P2 respectively from the start.

Russell’s race ended in a DNF when the Mercedes car caught fire due to an apparent engine failure.

For Hamilton, while he was still in the lead at that point, he might have had a minor sense of disappointment, as a chance at victory disappeared on lap 12 when Max Verstappen cruised past him.

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Verstappen’s overtake was initially put down to the pace difference between the Mercedes and Red Bull when DRS is activated but team principal Christian Horner believes that Hamilton actually threw away P1 with a mistake.

“First of all, I think Lewis made a mistake on that lap,” Horner said after the race. 

“Moreover, we had completely set up the car for the race. Maybe Hamilton heated up his tyres a little too aggressively, so he suffered a bit more in the race,” he suggested.

Horner also dismissed any suggestion that Red Bull is holding back on the racetrack to avoid the FIA stepping in to reduce the gap between the world champions and rest of the grid.

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“For sure [Red Bull is] holding back,” Russell told the BBC Chequered Flag podcast. 

“I think they are almost embarrassed to show their full potential because the faster they seem, the more that the sport is going to try to hold them back somehow.

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“I think realistically they probably have seven-tenths advantage over the rest of the field. I don’t know what the pace difference looks like at the moment but Max has got no reason to be pushing it, nor has Red Bull. 

“They’ve done a really great job to be fair to them. We can’t take that away, and we clearly have to up our game.”

Responding to Russell’s claims, Horner said: “That’s very generous of him! His team would know too well about those kinds of advantages.

“There’s always an element of managing that goes on in any race. Because it was a one-stop race, and a very early one-stop race, of course there was an element of tyre management going on.”