FEBRUARY 21, 2024

Outcome now imminent as Horner F1 scandal deepens

Christian Horner's struggle to rescue his embattled Formula 1 career appears only to have worsened.

Christian Horner, United States GP 2023
© Red Bull

Red Bull's 2026 engine partner Ford, and the Formula 1 organisation itself, have now broken their silence on the scandal that is being investigated internally behind the scenes at the energy drink company.

It emerges that De Telegraaf, a Dutch newspaper that played a leading role in exposing the Horner scandal, is being sued by Red Bull team boss Horner for suggesting that the disputed interactions between him and a female staff member were in fact of a sexual nature.

The newspaper said sex-related messages were sent to the staff member over an extended period of time, and when Horner learned that she was complaining to his paymasters at Red Bull GmbH, he offered to pay her off to the tune of some 650,000 British pounds.

London's Times newspaper thinks Red Bull is now desperate to settle the matter this week, as pre-season testing gets underway in Bahrain.

It is also believed that the independent lawyer investigating the matter, and his since gone on holiday, was in fact appointed not by Red Bull's Austrian arm but the company's Thai shareholders - who support Horner.

Critically, though, Dr Helmut Marko and the Verstappen camp reportedly do not support Horner - and the support of Formula 1 itself as well as 2026 engine partner Ford also appears to be crumbling.

We hope that the matter will be clarified at the earliest opportunity after a fair and thorough process, a statement issued by Liberty Media-owned F1 said.

We will not comment further at this time.

The Financial Times, meanwhile, says Ford sent a private letter to Red Bull Racing's owners over the scandal, while the US carmaker giant's motorsport boss Mark Rushbrook has gone public.

As a family company, and a company that holds itself to very high standards of behaviour and integrity, we do expect the same from our partners, he said in a statement to the AP news agency.

It appears to us, and what we've been told, was that Red Bull is taking the situation very seriously. And of course, they're worried about their brand, as well, Ford's Rushbrook added.

It is not known to what extent Ford's public position was influenced by the emergence of new reports suggesting that messages, emails and photos between Horner and the staff member do in fact exist.

Auto Bild in Germany claims the female staff member is now on sick leave, and is also planning to take legal action against Horner in the UK.

If Horner has to leave his post as team leader, it will not be good for Red Bull Racing, commented former F1 driver Giancarlo Fisichella.

Christian is a good person and has been leading this team for many years. They won so many races and championships together and he deserves a lot of credit for that, he added.

If he leaves, it will have a negative impact on the team and could affect the balance of power in the championship.