Opinion: Red Bull/ Sky spat is childish but necessary amid F1's Abu Dhabi syndrome

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I genuinely cannot believe that on November 3rd, 2022, I am having to write about the fallout from a Formula 1 race that happened almost a year ago but here we go again...

Over the Mexico City Grand Prix weekend, it emerged Max Verstappen, later followed by the whole Red Bull team, was refusing to talk with Sky Sports due to comments made by Ted Kravitz a week earlier in Austin.

In his post-race 'Notebook', he was rambling about movie scripts, referencing Brad Pitt's upcoming F1 film. And he came up with one based on the US GP, in which Lewis Hamilton, after being "robbed" of becoming the greatest of all time the year before, comes back after a difficult season in a "rubbish" car to win a race, only to be denied by the person who benefitted from the robbery the previous year, ie Verstappen. 

Now, as someone who has grown up watching F1 via British TV, my respect for Ted is considerable because without his insights my knowledge of the cars and the sport would be far less than it is.

Kravitz USGP 2017

Also, his light-hearted nature and blabber are often a nice change from the monotonal talking heads on commentary and in the paddock.

And if this was just another example of what you might call 'Ted talk' then it probably wouldn't matter, but here's why it does and why Red Bull has called it out.

Formula 1 is enjoying its biggest boom in interest and attention in decades thanks to the success of Netflix's Drive to Survive and because of the epic championship duel between Hamilton and Verstappen last year.

But it is being ruined by the frankly disturbing behaviour of some fans, who simply refuse to accept Verstappen won the 2021 title legitimately due to the events of Abu Dhabi.

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Now, I could go through what happened and present an opinion, but I won't because it's not necessary this long after the event.

But in the weeks afterwards, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff insisted the team's anger over what happened was aimed at the FIA, not Red Bull and Verstappen, yet it is they who continue to get pummeled with hate and accusations almost 12 months on.

Some of that can be blamed on Sky Sports, who have continued to rile up those fans by squeezing in references to Abu Dhabi at any and every opportunity, with Kravitz's comments in Austin just the latest example.

So unsurprisingly, Verstappen and Red Bull have finally had enough...

“This whole year they have been firing and disrespectful, certainly one person in particular,” the Dutchman told De Telegraaf.

“You can’t live in the past. You just have to move on. Social media is a very toxic place, and if you are constantly being like that live on TV, you make it only worse instead of trying to make it better.

“You keep disrespecting me, and at one point, I’m not tolerating it anymore. That’s why I decided to stop answering them.”


Red Bull boss Christian Horner added: “I think an accusation of championships being robbed is something that we don’t feel is an impartial commentary. That is, we don’t feel, in any way fair or balanced.

“Max was very upset about it, and as a team, we support him fully. We were equally upset about it. As a team, we took the decision this weekend, I took the decision that we’ll have a weekend off.

“It was only for this weekend to express our dissatisfaction that allegations were being made there and that TV was becoming more and more sensational,” he continued.

“The world we live in is always hungry for headlines. The broadcasting stations should also take responsibility for not feeding it.”

Now, the whole situation is a bit childish as Kravitz, with all his years of experience, should really know better, while Verstappen and Red Bull perhaps shouldn't be so thin-skinned.

But a serious effort needs to be made to reduce the hostility between Red Bull, Mercedes and their fans, given there's a real chance of a rematch between them in 2023.


And Verstappen and Red Bull are right to highlight the role the media is playing in keeping a long-dead story in the public domain.

Of course, a newly added aspect to the 2021 story is the fallout of Red Bull breaching the budget cap, which those refusing to accept Max as champion immediately jumped on to again delegitimize his titles.

But I haven't mentioned it because, until now, there has been no evidence to suggest that their breach has been anything more than confusion over what is and isn't included, with a few costs and a large tax bill sending them over the limit.

As a result, any suggestion Red Bull and Verstappen won the 2021 titles by overspending is just a fantasy, and in fact, Red Bull should actually be praised for making this less of a story than it could be had they continued to fight the FIA in court.

But to end, I will make one further point. 

F1 has gone through many different eras through its 70+ years, and right now we are seeing what happens when one era transitions into another.

For the long-time fans of an ageing champion, it is never easy when a young pretender emerges to claim the throne for the next generation.


But regardless of Abu Dhabi or the budget cap, we should be proud to say we watched Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, arguably two of the most gifted drivers of all time, battle each other on track.

This is a moment in F1 history to be savoured, not ruined solely because a group of die-hard fans for one team and/or driver is incapable of respecting another team and/or driver.