Horner loses patience with human rights questions

25 Jul 2014 20:01

Red Bull team chief Christian Horner took an angry verbal swipe at reporters covering the Hungarian Grand Prix after growing vexed and frustrated by questions about planned Formula One races in Russia and Azerbaijan.

Briton Horner, 40, frequently put forward as a potential successor to Bernie Ecclestone as F1's ringmaster, erupted when he was repeatedly asked about the upcoming race due to be held in Sochi on October 12 and a planned event in Baku in 2016.

He said: "It is wrong to make F1 a political statement or subject when we are a sport. We should be talking about the drivers in these conferences and the spectacular racing we saw in the last Grand Prix.

"We should be talking about what a great race it was for Lewis Hamilton to come through the grid, but 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 off.

"How about a question about 'what's going to happen in the race on Sunday?' Because if you have got these questions then please point them to Mr [Jean] Todt [president of motor racing's ruling body, the International Motoring Federation (FIA)] or Mr [Bernie] Ecclestone rather than the teams."

In common with other team bosses from Ferrari, Force India and Williams at a news conference following Friday's opening practice sessions for this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix, Horner preferred to avoid giving any direct answers.

"There is a calendar that comes out in October [2013] and we all have a choice whether we enter the world championship," he said. "All the people here are sitting here because we are racers and passionate about the sport and want to compete.

"When we sign up for the 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."

Horner's outburst came in exasperation after several questions related to mounting public pressure on the sport to pull out of the inaugural Russian Grand Prix following the shooting down of a Malaysian passenger plane over Eastern Ukraine by pro-Russian separatists this month, killing 298 passengers.

Russian president Vladimir Putin is alleged to be responsible, in part, for their deaths because he allegedly supplied the surface-to-air missile to the separatists. Azerbaijan has faced questions about its record on human rights.

Horner went on: "All of you [media reporters] will be at those races, the vast majority of you. Why? Because you're either passionate about the sport or because you earn a living out of the sport..."

He earned few friends with his remarks and some of the other team bosses around him appeared to exchange embarrassed looks.

Formula One has gained a reputation in recent years for ignoring human rights and political issues by holding controversial races in Bahrain and China.

Force India team chief Vijay Mallya said: "I don't think the teams should be holding their own individual positions to determine social, political issues. The FIA is perfectly competent to determine where Formula One should be staged and not be staged."

Few F1 drivers in recent years have dared make any comment on the sport's attitude to human rights, but one who did was Australian Mark Webber, who left the sport last year, after racing for Horner's Red Bull team.

When the 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix was cancelled, Webber was quoted saying: "F1 should have taken a much firmer stance earlier this year, rather than constantly delaying its decision in hope of being able to reschedule the race.

"It would have sent a very clear message about its position on something as fundamental as human rights."