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The allegations against Chris Horner are putting a strain on the Red Bull team

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The allegations against Chris Horner are putting a strain on the Red Bull team

The Formula 1 racing team is facing an ordeal following the investigations against Horner. Increasingly, disagreements become apparent in the dream team.

Denies any accusation: Red Bull team boss Christian Horner.

Kenzo Tribouillard / Reuters

The report that Christian Horner was seen on Tuesday during the first training drive of the new Red Bull racing car for the upcoming season would be anything but remarkable in itself. After all, that’s befitting of a Formula 1 team boss, especially one at the current industry leader Red Bull Racing. The fact that British television still reported on this fact and that it was even presented with astonishment is due to the currently confusing situation in world champion Max Verstappen’s racing team.

Since the parent company from Austria initiated an independent investigation against the 50-year-old Horner a week and a half ago, nothing has been the same. Red Bull does not yet want to reveal what exactly it is about. Just this much: The company is taking the matter very seriously and wants to complete the investigation as soon as possible.

A heavy burden rests on Horner and the team

But that can take a long time. It is said to be about inappropriate behavior towards an employee in the team who reported it to the company headquarters in Fuschl am See. At least that’s what the Dutch newspaper “De Telegraaf” reported. Horner denied any allegations to the paper. Since then there has been radio silence.

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An initial statement from Red Bull Racing was expected last Friday after lawyers had questioned Horner for hours in London. However, the investigators, who had previously interviewed other team members, had not yet come to a conclusion. Despite the presumption of innocence, a heavy burden continues to weigh on Horner and the team. For the entire Formula 1, it is the first major challenge with the compliance requirements that are common in the private sector. Sensitivity is high, especially with the rights holder Liberty Media from the USA.

Nevertheless, speculation continues to grow. When the all-time winners of Formula 1 officially present the new RB 20 on Thursday, the greater attention will once again be on Horner instead of the car. It would be his first public appearance since the allegations – and also a sign that he is ready to fight for his reputation and his job.

Business as usual looks different. The allegations come at the worst possible time: the test drives are scheduled to begin in a week, followed immediately by the start of the season. The accusations and investigations are causing unrest in a phase of concentration, especially as there is fear of impending lack of leadership. Christian Horner took over Red Bull as team boss in 2005 and has since led them to six constructors’ and seven drivers’ titles. The British-Austrian racing team is also considered the favorite for the new racing year.

It is currently uncertain as to when the independent law firm investigating the incidents will be able to provide results. And what consequences that has. This keeps the champions in limbo – everything from acquittal to resignation to expulsion seems possible. Horner’s contract runs until 2026.

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On the Monday on which the allegations became known, Christian Horner took part in a meeting of the Formula 1 Commission. The longest-serving team boss in the premier class, who is married to the former “Spice Girl” Geri Halliwell and has a son, wants to escape prejudice through supposed normality.

The McLaren team boss calls Red Bull Racing the “Piranha Club”

Since then, however, it has repeatedly leaked out from those around the team and Formula 1 that the Briton can hardly be kept. Insiders are not surprised that supposed details in the Horner affair keep cropping up in the Netherlands and Austria. Apparently there has long been opposition in the camps there against the manager, who can smile so gently and act so aggressively.

Deeply connected: Max Verstappen has expressed his gratitude to his sponsor Helmut Marko (right) several times.

Ricardo Arduengo / Reuters

This also shows that behind the facade of the Red Bull dream team there are apparently disagreements and competitive thinking. Differences of opinion between Horner and the 80-year-old corporate consultant Helmut Marko had already become public last spring. Apparently it was about claims to power in the vacuum that had arisen after the death of the company’s founder Dietrich Mateschitz. Officially there should be peace, but apparently there are now differences between the Verstappen family and Horner.

Max Verstappen has often expressed his loyalty and gratitude to his sponsor Marko. It is unclear what role Oliver Mintzlaff plays, who moved from Bundesliga soccer club RB Leipzig to managing director of Red Bull GmbH, which is also responsible for motorsports. If these are Horner’s opponents, then regardless of the outcome of the investigation, they are powerful opponents. McLaren team boss Ron Dennis once called the racing team from Milton Keynes the “Piranha Club”.

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If Christian Horner leaves the team or has to leave, the current sports director Jonathan Wheatley is likely to take over. That would be more effective than installing a corporate manager from outside Formula 1. The 56-year-old is considered to be as experienced and clever as Horner.

However, the key personality at Red Bull Racing remains the exceptional designer Adrian Newey, who extended his contract long-term last spring. The 65-year-old technician is considered the highest paid in his profession. He sits next to Horner at the command post behind the pit wall; the two seem to be welded together, but they are very different characters. Ferrari has already been rejected by Newey twice, and the current situation at Red Bull could lead to another attempt at poaching him.

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