FEBRUARY 29, 2024

War not over despite Horner winning scandal battle

The investigation into a staff member's allegations of bad behaviour has finally resulted in Christian Horner being cleared of wrongdoing.

Christian Horner, Mexican GP 2023
© Red Bull

But in the words of France's L'Equipe: Horner is cleared, but the war is not over.

Despite calls for clarity and transparency before the track action kicks off in Bahrain on Thursday, Wednesday's media statement put out by Red Bull does not detail the nature of the allegations or why Horner was found not guilty.

Red Bull is confident that the investigation has been fair, rigorous and impartial, the statement put out by Red Bull GmbH declared, insisting that the details of the more than 100-page dossier compiled by the investigator is confidential.

We will not be commenting further out of respect for all concerned, the energy drink company added. Red Bull will continue striving to meet the highest workplace standards.

So why isn't the 'war' over yet? For one, the complainant - who remains at work at Milton-Keynes - has been given the right of appeal, amid speculation she may pursue civil action.

But a bigger worry for Red Bull Racing is the apparent power struggle that is raging between the parent company's Austrian and Thai factions.

Some believe Adrian Newey may have fallen out with Horner, 50, over the affair, while Red Bull nemesis Toto Wolff may be putting out the feelers to Max Verstappen to see if he might want to jump ship for 2025.

I would be surprised if they (Mercedes) haven't contacted him, Dr Helmut Marko admitted to Austrian newspaper Kronen Zeitung. Luckily Max is a very loyal driver.

Former F1 driver Ralf Schumacher thinks the Horner controversy may have revealed and deepened conflict within the sport's most dominant team at present.

A lot of things have broken there, he told Sky Deutschland. "They have to fix that now.

The problem is that you almost get the impression that some people inside the team were interested in getting rid of Horner, Schumacher added.

There was quite a bit of fighting and now the question is whether he will be able to maintain his position and has the support of the whole team.

Horner, although trackside in Bahrain, was not available to the media on Wednesday. When Verstappen was asked about whether he still supports Horner, the Dutchman said just prior to Red Bull's statement: "Well, I'm trusting the process.

I don't want to get into that. Because it's not my case and I don't want to get involved in that. But when you talk about performance, it's of course very important that everyone sticks together, the triple world champion added.

But with the wider power struggle probably still playing out behind the scenes, 26-year-old Verstappen - a major key to Red Bull's current dominance - may continue to be asked about the saga throughout the 2024 season.

Many in the paddock suspect that Verstappen's corner repeatedly leaked details of the allegations to the Dutch press, Tobias Gruner, a correspondent for Auto Motor und Sport, said.