Motor racing-Horner praises Wolff for openness on mental health issues

Bahrain Grand Prix
Formula One F1 - Bahrain Grand Prix - Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain - March 19, 2022 Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner during qualifying. Pool via REUTERS/Giuseppe Cacace

March 20, 2022

By Alan Baldwin

(Reuters) – Red Bull Formula One boss Christian Horner has praised Mercedes rival Toto Wolff for speaking out about the mental health issues that have plagued him for more than a decade despite unprecedented success.

Wolff, an Austrian, told the Sunday Times that he had been seeing a psychiatrist since 2004 and had more than 500 hours of therapy.

“I have suffered mentally, I still do. Getting help is a way of overcoming my problems, and it has helped me to access untapped potential,” said the man who has steered Mercedes to a record eight successive constructors’ titles.

“I’ve never had any problem with the stigma. Some of the most successful people are very, very sensitive and very, very sensitive means very, very vulnerable.”

Horner told reporters at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix that it was an important topic.

“All credit to Toto for having the courage to talk out about his issues with mental health,” he said.

“I think that it is something in this business that we are acutely aware of and something that we’re looking to be pro-active on.

“I’m fortunate that I haven’t had issues personally but I’ve had…friends that I know who have suffered as a result of mental health issues.”

Wolff and Horner waged a season-long war of words last year as the battle between their teams raged and Mercedes’ seven- times world champion Lewis Hamilton fought Red Bull’s Max Verstappen for the title.

Verstappen won the final showdown, with Hamilton and Mercedes feeling robbed by a controversial late safety car decision made by now-departed race director Michael Masi.

Wolff called Horner a “windbag” during last season’s verbal sparring and likened the Briton to a driver going the wrong way on the autobahn and still thinking he was the only one in the right.

The Red Bull boss had compared Wolff to a pantomime dame.

Despite his often combative persona and figurehead role, Wolff said he had felt depressed and inadequate.

“Everything depends upon how you perceive yourself. High profile people who seem to have everything but are struggling, I think we have an obligation to say we’re getting help and it’s OK to get help,” he said.

“Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka deserve a lot of credit for how they’ve spoken about this.”

U.S. Olympic gymnast Biles brought about a groundbreaking, global conversation around athletes’ mental well-being at last year’s Tokyo Games and tennis player Osaka has been open about her struggles.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London; Editing by Ed Osmond)