F1: Horner snaps at media when questioned about Azerbaijan

Infiniti Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner speaks with members of the media during practice ahead of the Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix at Hungaroring on July 25, 2014 in Budapest, Hungary.

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The FIA’s regular Friday team personnel press conference was enlivened when a clearly angry Christian Horner told the assembled media that questions about the rights and wrongs of F1 going to Russia and Azerbaijan should be directed to Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone.

Only Claire Williams, Monisha Kaltenborn and Vijya Mallya were prepared to comment about a question on Russia – all saying in essence that it was was up to the FIA – while Horner, Marco Mattiacci and Eric Boullier all preferred not to comment.

When a further question was asked about Azerbaijan, with a punchline of whether they would follow Bernie Ecclestone to North Korea, only Force India’s Vijay Mallya  was willing to reply.

“I think we’re racing people, more popularly known as petrolheads,” he said. “We come here to race and to win and to enjoy it. The governance is an international organization called the FIA. It is up to the FIA to decide where the sport is conducted. I don’t think that the teams, individual participants in the sport, should be holding their individual positions to determine social political issues that you have raised. The FIA is perfectly competent to determine where Formula One should be staged and not be staged.

“You know, it’s a not question of following Bernie. I think the question has been wrongly framed. It’s the commercial rights holder, it’s the FIA. We race where they stage the events. It’s as simple as that.”

When the follow-up question cited issues in Azerbaijan, Horner snapped.

“This is becoming a very depressing press conference as we’re only focusing on the negativities,” said the Red Bull boss. “Look, there’s a calendar that comes out in October or November. We all have a choice whether we enter the World Championship or not. All the people sitting here are racers and they’re here because they’re passionate about the sport and they want to compete. When we sign up for that championship, we put our faith and trust in the promoter and the FIA and we will attend those races unless they deem it unnecessary for us to be there.

“All of you will be at those races, or the vast majority of you will be at those races and why, because you’re either passionate about the sport or because you earn a living out of covering the sport and I think it’s wrong to make Formula One a political statement or subject when we are a sport. We should be talking about the drivers in these conferences, we should be talking about the spectacular racing that happened between our drivers and his [Mattiacci’s] driver at the last Grand Prix.

“We should be talking about what a great race it was for Lewis Hamilton to come through the grid, yet all we do is focus on the negatives and it has to be said, it gets pretty boring for us to sit up here and field these questions. So how about asking some questions about what’s going to happen in the race on Sunday, what’s going to happen in qualifying tomorrow, because if you’ve got these questions, please point them at Mr. Todt or Mr. Ecclestone rather than the teams.”

While Horner does have a point, clearly the Russian issue in particular will not go away, and it could become a matter for the teams and their sponsors as the October date draws closer.