F1

What next for Red Bull, Christian Horner and Max Verstappen?

Team principal Christian Horner has faced intense scrutiny following allegations made against him by a female colleague.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has faced intense speculation in recent weeks (Darko Bandic/AP)
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has faced intense speculation in recent weeks Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has faced intense speculation in recent weeks (Darko Bandic/AP) (Darko Bandic/AP)

Reigning world champion Max Verstappen opened the 2024 Formula One season with another commanding victory but it is the controversy surrounding his Red Bull team that provided the headlines in Bahrain.

Team principal Christian Horner has faced intense scrutiny following allegations made against him by a female colleague – claims he has always denied – and the drama continued to unfold in the paddock at the season opener.

With claims and counter-claims coming from different names in and around the Red Bull garage, the issue will now roll on into the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix this weekend.

Here, the PA news agency answers some of the key questions that hang over the ongoing situation.

Where did all of this start?

Max Verstappen won in Bahrain despite the off-track issues facing his Red Bull boss
Max Verstappen won in Bahrain despite the off-track issues facing his Red Bull boss Max Verstappen won in Bahrain despite the off-track issues facing his Red Bull boss (David Davies/PA)

Red Bull Racing’s parent company Red Bull GmbH announced on February 5 that Horner was being investigated following an accusation of “inappropriate behaviour” by a female colleague. Horner emphatically denied the claim and the 50-year-old stayed on as team principal after Red Bull confirmed that the grievance has been dismissed last week. But, just 24 hours later, messages and a number of 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 race in Bahrain.

What did Horner have to say about the email?

Christian and Geri Horner kiss before the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Christian and Geri Horner kiss before the Bahrain Grand Prix Christian and Geri Horner kiss before the Bahrain Grand Prix. (David Davies/PA)

The Red Bull boss, who is married to former Spice Girl Geri, released a statement as news of the anonymous email broke. “I will not comment on anonymous speculation, but to reiterate I have always denied the allegations,” it read. “I respected the integrity of the independent investigation and fully co-operated 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.” Horner was then questioned several times while in the paddock but refused to speak on the subject.

What impact did it have on the team over the race weekend?

On the surface, at least, very little. Verstappen put his Red Bull on pole position and bar an early charge from the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, the Dutchman never looked like being challenged on race day. He did, however, say after qualifying that Horner had been “a little bit distracted” and was twice asked if he had full confidence in his boss – not offering a definitive answer to either question.

Race won, case closed?

Jos Verstappen (right) has spoken about Horner’s situation at Red Bull.
Jos Verstappen (right) has spoken about Horner's situation at Red Bull Jos Verstappen (right) has spoken about Horner’s situation at Red Bull. (David Davies/PA)

Not at all, no. Not only does the complainant have a right to appeal against the decision to allow Horner to continue but Verstappen’s father – former F1 driver Jos – has said he believes the situation “is driving people apart”. Having been close to his son for all of his three championship wins, Jos does wield some power and his words could worry those within the Red Bull set-up as they look to keep their all-conquering title winner happy. “There is tension here while he (Horner) remains in position,” Verstappen Snr told the Daily Mail. “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.” Red Bull later dismissed such claims, telling the PA news agency the team remains “united”.

So what happens next?

Verstappen is likely to be quizzed on Horner’s situation again this week.
Verstappen is likely to be quizzed on Horner's situation again this week Verstappen is likely to be quizzed on Horner’s situation again this week. (PA Wire/PA)

The teams are currently preparing for the second race of the new season in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Verstappen will face the media on Wednesday where he will no doubt be asked about his father’s comments. His reply to such questions could set the tone for the weekend as Horner will once again aim to keep things focused on the track rather than a situation away from it that does not seem to be going away any time soon.