LONDON : Red Bull have battled more behind-the-scenes 'politicking' than ever in Formula One this season as they seek to dethrone Mercedes and seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton, according to technical head Adrian Newey.
Red Bull were embroiled in a bitter 'flexi-wing' controversy that led to the governing FIA issuing a technical directive and introducing more stringent load deflection tests on rear wings.
There have also been plenty of insults and angry exchanges between team principal Christian Horner and Mercedes counterpart Toto Wolff, with Red Bull recruiting engine experts from the German manufacturer as they plan their own power unit.
Newey, who has designed a string of title-winning cars in his decades in the sport, said it was a compliment in many ways for the team to come under such close scrutiny from their rivals.
"We have experienced this before but I can’t remember a time when we have received the same level of behind the scenes politicking and lobbying against our car," he told the team website http://www.redbull.com.
Red Bull won both championships for four years in a row between 2010-13 and also came under intense scrutiny then as well.
"That is the nature of Formula One, and one of the things that makes it so stimulating, but it is the frequency and intensity of this year that is quite telling," said Newey.
Red Bull have won six races to Mercedes' four, with Dutch youngster Verstappen taking five of those and Hamilton all of his team's.
There are, provisionally at least, 12 more races to come between Belgium at the end of August and Abu Dhabi in mid-December.
Verstappen has suffered collisions with Mercedes drivers in the last two races, crashing out at Silverstone after a clash with Hamilton and punted off in Hungary when Valtteri Bottas triggered mayhem.
Verstappen managed to salvage some points with a damaged car in that last race but is now eight points behind Hamilton, after being 33 up going into the British Grand Prix.
The recent misfortunes have also left Red Bull a provisional 12 points behind Mercedes, pending an Aston Martin appeal, in the constructors' standings after being 44 ahead.
Newey said Red Bull had born the brunt of the flexi-wing focus, even though other teams had similar aerodynamic solutions.
"When Mercedes started making noise about it, they weren’t worried about what Alfa (Romeo) were doing," he said.
"They were only worried about whether we were getting a benefit, which we really weren’t, but there was a cost implication to changing that part which obviously hurt."
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge)