Christian Horner pays for Mercedes factory tour and plans ’20-person’ Red Bull takeover

Max Verstappen prevails in world title shoot-out

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Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has shelled out for a Mercedes F1 factory tour ahead of the 2022 season. With Lewis Hamilton set to return after breaking his lengthy silence, it could be another blockbuster contest between last year’s top two constructors. 

Abu Dhabi’s dramatic title decider undoubtedly left the Silver Arrows with a bitter taste in their mouths as Hamilton was pipped to the Drivers’ Championship by Max Verstappen in controversial circumstances. 

But boss Toto Wolff did at least get one over on Horner as Mercedes sealed their eighth consecutive constructors’ title. 

A dramatic change in car regulations threatens to shuffle the pack this season, which could put the two high-flyers’ relative dominance in jeopardy. 

And Horner appears to have taken matters into his own hands, launching a successful £4,000 bid for a tour of the Merc facilities at the Autosport Awards Charity Auction on Sunday. 

The proceeds went to the Grand Prix Trust, which provides help and advice to F1 personnel, and Horner stressed that his bid was for ‘a great cause’. 

Perhaps in hope more than anything, Horner also claimed that he would love to take ‘about 20’ of his colleagues on the tour.  

“Adrian [Newey, Chief Technical Officer], myself, Pierre Wache [Technical Director] and probably Paul Field, our Director of Production,” he joked to RacingNews365.

“It’ll be interesting to go and see how they’re spending their budget cap.”

Indeed, Horner is no stranger to touring a rival’s factory, having visited that of McLaren back in 2008. 

Somewhat predictably, the team were reluctant to reveal their secrets, and a similar outcome may be on the cards if Horner ever decides to follow through on the reward for his successful bid. 

Red Bull will be keen to find a performance advantage in 2022, with Verstappen supposedly drained after a taxing title battle with Hamilton which ended with a nerve-jangling final-lap shootout. 

But fans will relish the notion that the duo will actually face off again, after months of silence had fuelled rumours that the seven-time world champion would retire. 

The outcome of an FIA investigation into Abu Dhabi’s contentious season finale was thought to be crucial in Hamilton’s F1 future. 

Race director Michael Masi, who effectively wiped out the Brit’s lead behind a late safety car, could even be axed once the findings are presented later this month. 

But the nature of Hamilton’s social media comeback strongly suggests that he will be on the grid in 2022. 

And the latest instalment in a series of almighty hints came on Monday, when Mercedes posted a picture of the 37-year-old captioned: “Welcome back, Lewis Hamilton.”

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