F1

Christian Horner vows to focus on racing amid scrutiny over his Red Bull future

Horner’s F1 future remains in the spotlight after hundreds of WhatsApp messages appearing to be written by him to a female colleague were leaked.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner is pictured ahead of qualifying
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner Red Bull team principal Christian Horner is pictured ahead of qualifying (David Davies/PA)

Christian Horner vowed to go racing after breaking his silence amid the latest allegations whirling around the Red Bull team principal.

Horner’s Formula One future is again in the spotlight after hundreds of WhatsApp messages appearing to be written by him to a female colleague were leaked.

On Wednesday, Horner was cleared to continue as Red Bull team principal following an internal probe into “inappropriate behaviour” by the F1 team’s parent company, Red Bull GmbH. He has always denied the claims.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, in the paddock on Friday, has denied claims of “inappropriate behaviour”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, in the paddock on Friday, has denied claims of “inappropriate behaviour” (David Davies/PA)

But just 24 hours later, a number of messages and images apparently exchanged between Horner and the complainant were sent from an anonymous email account to 149 members of the F1 paddock – including FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem, F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali and the grid’s nine other team principals, as well as members of the media – on the eve of this weekend’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

Domenicali and Ben Sulayem will meet on Friday to discuss the next steps.

Horner was quizzed about the latest allegations as he made his way from Red Bull’s hospitality suite to the team’s garage for third practice ahead of qualifying.

“I am not going to comment on anonymous speculation from unknown sources,” he said. When asked what comes next, Horner replied: “We go racing.”

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen finished third in final practice, with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz leading the way. Lewis Hamilton was 12th.

It is anticipated that Horner’s wife, Geri Halliwell, will be with her husband at Sunday’s race. Chalerm Yoovidhya, who owns 51 per cent of the Red Bull group, is also set to be in attendance.

Horner embraces triple world champion Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen (left) and Christian Horner Horner embraces triple world champion Max Verstappen (David Davies/PA)

It is understood that neither F1’s American owners, Liberty Media, nor its regulator, the FIA, has seen Red Bull GmbH’s report into Horner, which is thought to stretch to 150 pages and was said to be “confidential”.

It is believed that the FIA is considering the legalities of asking Red Bull to hand over its report, and examining if Horner might have breached two clauses of its International Sporting Code.

Article 12.2.1.c states that a competitor will have committed an offence if there was “any fraudulent conduct or any act prejudicial to the interests of any Competition or to the interests of motor sport generally”.

Article 12.2.1.f highlights “any words, deeds or writings that have caused moral injury or loss to the FIA, its bodies, its members or its executive officers, and more generally on the interest of motor sport and on the values defended by the FIA”.

Meanwhile, article 12.2.1.g states that “any failure to cooperate in an investigation” would breach the code.

Horner continues to operate in his role as team principal and CEO, although it is understood there is considerable unease among the team’s plethora of sponsors and partners.

Horner said in a statement on Thursday: “I will not comment on anonymous speculation, but to reiterate I have always denied the allegations.

“I respected the integrity of the independent investigation and fully cooperated with it every step of the way.

“It was a thorough and fair investigation conducted by an independent specialist barrister and it has concluded dismissing the complaint made.

“I remain fully focused on the start of the season.”