F1

Red Bull ‘united’ amid claim it could be ‘torn apart’ if Christian Horner stays

Jos Verstappen added fuel to the fire by suggesting the team “will explode” if Horner remains as principal.

Christian Horner after Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen won the Bahrain Grand Prix
Christian Horner after Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen won the Bahrain Grand Prix Christian Horner after Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen won the Bahrain Grand Prix (David Davies/PA)

Formula One’s crisis-hit Red Bull team insists it remains “united” after Max Verstappen’s father, Jos, claimed it is “in danger of being torn apart” if Christian Horner remains in his role.

A defiant Horner has said he is “absolutely confident” he will stay on as Red Bull boss for the remainder of the season after overseeing Verstappen lead a one-two finish from team-mate Sergio Perez at the opening round in Bahrain.

Horner has faced intense scrutiny in recent weeks following allegations against him made by a female colleague. Horner has always denied the claims.

But speaking to the Daily Mail newspaper following Saturday’s 57-lap race, Verstappen Snr added further fuel to the fire when he said: “There is tension here while he (Horner) remains in position.

“The team is in danger of being torn apart. It can’t go on the way it is. It will explode. He is playing the victim, when he is the one causing the problems.”

Responding to Verstappen Snr’s comments, a Red Bull Racing spokesperson told the PA news agency on Sunday: “There are no issues here. The team are united and we are focused on racing.”

In another twist, the FIA denied that its president Mohammed Ben Sulayem had urged Verstappen to publicly endorse Horner.

It had been reported that Ben Sulayem’s request came after the triple world champion stopped short of providing full support for his boss.

The FIA denied its president Mohammed Ben Sulayem (pictured) had urged world champion Verstappen to publicly endorse the Red Bull team principal
Bahrain Grand Prix – Race – Bahrain International Circuit The FIA denied its president Mohammed Ben Sulayem (pictured) had urged world champion Verstappen to publicly endorse the Red Bull team principal (David Davies/PA)

But an FIA spokesperson told the PA news agency on Sunday night: “It was an informal chat after qualifying, which happens often. He (Ben Sulayem) urged Max to do what he does best – win. And ignore the politics.”

During an extraordinary week in Bahrain, Horner was exonerated by Red Bull Racing’s parent company, Red Bull GmbH, following an internal probe into allegations of “inappropriate behaviour”.

But hundreds of WhatsApp messages, appearing to be exchanged between Horner and the complainant, were then leaked to the F1 world.

Verstappen Snr, who is not an employee of Red Bull Racing, has been accused in some quarters of attempting to oust Horner from his job.

But the 51-year-old father of Red Bull’s three-time world champion continued: “That wouldn’t make sense. Why would I do that when Max is doing so well here?”

The apparent division within the grid’s all-conquering team has even led to speculation that Max Verstappen could seek a move away.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff (pictured) has not ruled out a move for Max Verstappen
Bahrain Grand Prix – Practice Day – Bahrain International Circuit Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff (pictured) has not ruled out a move for Max Verstappen (David Davies/PA)

Toto Wolff and Verstappen Snr spoke in the paddock and the Mercedes team principal – seeking a replacement for Ferrari-bound Lewis Hamilton – did not rule out a move for the Dutch driver when asked if he was on his radar for next year.

Wolff simply said: “The driver will always choose the quickest car. That is fundamentally what it is all about.”

Horner strode hand-in-hand with wife Geri in the paddock one hour and 45 minutes before Saturday’s race.

Red Bull’s majority shareholder, Thai billionaire Chalerm Yoovidhya, also joined the duo on the team’s terrace in a public show of support for Horner.

Speaking after the chequered flag had fallen, Horner was asked if he is confident he will stay on as Red Bull team principal for the rest of the season. He replied: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

Christian Horner (centre) and wife Geri (left) were in the pit lane after Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix
Bahrain Grand Prix – Race – Bahrain International Circuit Christian Horner (centre) and wife Geri (left) were in the pit lane after Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix (David Davies/PA)

He continued: “I have the support of an incredible family, an incredible wife, an incredible team and everybody within that team.

“And my focus is on going racing, winning races, and doing the best I can.

“It was a day about starting the season in the best possible way. My focus is on this team, my family, my wife and racing.”

Horner was also quizzed about the leaked Google file which was sent from an anonymous email account to 149 members of the F1 paddock – including Ben Sulayem, F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali and the grid’s nine other team principals, as well as members of the media.

“I am not going to comment on anonymous speculative messages from an unknown source,” Horner said. “I am not going to comment on what motives whatever person may have for doing this.

“Obviously, it has not been pleasant with some of the unwanted attention, but the focus is very much on the cars and my focus has been on what is happening on track and the result (on Saturday) demonstrates where the focus is and we move onwards.

“There was a full, lengthy internal process that was completed by an independent KC and the grievance that was raised was dismissed. End of. Move on.”

Horner is set to be back in the spotlight on Thursday when the cars hit the track in practice for the next round in Saudi Arabia.

It is understood Verstappen Snr is due to be in Saudi Arabia for this week’s race.