MARCH 3, 2024

Horner scandal risks loss of Verstappen, Newey

In the eye of the storm, Christian Horner put on a show of unity and harmony on Saturday - flanked by his wife Geri and Red Bull's majority Thai shareholder, billionaire Chalerm Yoovidhya.

Adrian Newey, Christian Horner, Bahrain GP 2024
© Red Bull

I have great support within the team and the company, said the embattled team boss. But I will not comment what motives someone might have for doing something like this.

Indeed, behind the scenes, the walls at Red Bull Racing are crumbling around the team's long-time boss.

There's tension here while he remains in position, Jos Verstappen, Max's influential father, told the Daily Mail as the chequered flag flew in Bahrain.

The team is in danger of being torn apart, he added. 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.

It is believed Horner's grip on power amid the scandal involving his affair with his former personal assistant is only being maintained by Yoovidhya's support.

F1 and the FIA have taken no official action to date, but FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem said on Saturday that the saga damages the sport.

It's the start of the season, Formula 1 is becoming so popular, he said, vowing to protect the sport from all this.

We have to look at the competition, the FIA chief added. Why are we overshadowing it with negativity?

It's rumoured that Jos Verstappen may have played a role in the scandal leaking into the public, apparently locked in an opposing power faction including Dr Helmut Marko, Mark Mateschitz, and even Adrian Newey.

Why would I do that when Max is doing so well here? Jos insisted when asked if he's been involved in the Horner scandal. That wouldn't make sense.

Long-time Horner nemesis Toto Wolff is also making hay with the scandal, rushing to meet in the paddock with Jos while TV broadcasts were still rolling. Earlier, Wolff and Jos were not even on speaking terms after the 2021 Abu Dhabi finale.

I've known Jos for 25 years, through ups and downs, and I simply congratulated him on his son's achievements, Wolff told reporters, as he refused to deny that he is interested in signing up Max Verstappen to replace the Ferrari-bound Lewis Hamilton next year.

Anything is possible.

Former F1 driver Ralf Schumacher wouldn't rule out that possibility either.

I wouldn't say no, he told Sky Deutschland. "This unrest needs to be dealt with quickly now. If there are splits and someone loses motivation, things like that happen very quickly.

Formula 1 is known for something like that - who would have thought a few months ago that Lewis Hamilton would leave Mercedes?

There are mere days between now and the next race in Saudi Arabia, prompting rumours that Horner will somehow be forced to step down imminently. But when asked if he'll be in Jeddah, the 50-year-old answered: "Yes, absolutely.

I wouldn't be here otherwise.

Ralf Schumacher, though, thinks the saga will continue to boil until something drastic occurs. Everyone either needs to apologise to one another or someone needs to go. The damage to the brand is already gigantic, he said on Sky Deutschland.

"It's taken up a lot of space this week - too much. I also thought that Max was only cautiously happy (after winning). The ordeal isn't over yet.

"I could imagine Max saying he's doing something completely different. A team structure is very fragile. Adrian Newey, too, has achieved everything and just wants to build cars in peace now.

Then Horner would be standing there along with his drawing board.

Ralf's advice, then?: Before I lose Newey and Verstappen, I'd try to find another solution. Peace must return to the team.

As for 80-year-old Marko, he has been constantly implicated in the Horner scandal but also remarkably quiet. The discussions this weekend were not pleasant, the Austrian said late on Saturday night.

We tried to concentrate on the sport and, thank God, it worked out. We assume that our strength and cohesion will be maintained.

The most unseemly part of the entire episode, however, has been the anonymous leak of the private texts and messages sent between Horner and the unnamed female staff member.

F1 journalist Leo Turrini wrote in his Quotidiano column: "I feel repugnance for those who disclosed the private conversations of human beings who have families, children, relatives, friends.

From the outside, one has the impression of being witnesses of a power conflict. That's why I found Toto Wolff and Zak Brown's position embarrassing, to say the least, he said.

When I was a child studying the animal kingdom, I never liked vultures. And I don't even like Chris Horner.