Christian Horner’s female colleague suspended by Red Bull

Horner was cleared last week of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ by an internal investigation after a complaint from a female colleague

Kieran Jackson
Formula 1 Correspondent
Thursday 07 March 2024 13:54 GMT
Christian Horner and Max Verstappen’s father have ‘heated’ exchange at Bahrain GP

Christian Horner’s female colleague – who complained of “inappropriate behaviour” by Horner – has been suspended by Red Bull Racing.

Red Bull F1 boss Horner was cleared of any wrongdoing after an internal investigation concluded last week. A day later, hundreds of WhatsApp messages allegedly between Horner and the female colleague were leaked to the press.

Now, it has emerged on Thursday that the accuser has been suspended, on full pay, with the decision said to be taken as a result of the findings of the internal probe. A Red Bull spokesperson stated: “The company cannot comment on this internal matter”.

The Independent has approached Red Bull GmbH for further comment. On Wednesday night, Red Bull Racing insisted the complainant had not been sacked.

Horner is scheduled to speak in Saudi Arabia this afternoon at a team principals’ press conference at 3:30pm (GMT).

The female complainant has, according to Sky News, five working days to file an appeal against the investigation outcome, having received a legal letter on Monday.

Horner accompanied wife Geri Halliwell hand-in-hand in a show of unity at the Bahran Grand Prix on Saturday, insisting afterwards he was “absolutely confident” that he will stay in his position this year despite what he admitted was a “testing” week for his family.

The Red Bull team principal was cleared of “inappropriate behaviour” last Wednesday after a three-week internal probe conducted by an external lawyer, following allegations from the female colleague which were strongly refuted by Horner, before WhatsApp texts allegedly between the two parties – some sexually suggestive – were leaked to the media 24 hours later.

After Horner was cleared, last week’s statement from Red Bull GmbH read: “The independent investigation into the allegations made against Mr Horner is complete, and Red Bull can confirm that the grievance has been dismissed.

“The complainant has a right of appeal. Red Bull is confident that the investigation has been fair, rigorous and impartial.

Christian Horner’s accuser has been suspended by Red Bull (AP)

“The investigation report is confidential and contains the private information of the parties and third parties who assisted in the investigation, and therefore we will not be commenting further out of respect for all concerned. Red Bull will continue striving to meet the highest workplace standards.”

Yet this latest development comes amid tensions within Red Bull, most notably between star driver Max Verstappen’s father, Jos, and Horner. Horner met with Verstappen’s manager Raymond Vermeulen in Dubai earlier this week in an attempt to diffuse tensions.

Face-to-face talks took place without star driver Verstappen or his father Jos present, two days after Verstappen Snr insisted the team will “explode” if Horner stays in his role and stated the Red Bull F1 boss is “playing the victim”. Horner and Verstappen Snr were seen in heated conversation in Red Bull’s hospitality unit over the weekend.

However the meeting in Dubai “went well,” according to reports, with the second race of the 2024 season taking place this Saturday in Saudi Arabia. Max’s father Jos will not be present in Jeddah, due to competing in a rally event in Belgium.

Jos Verstappen said Red Bull would ‘explode’ if Horner stayed in his position (Getty Images)

It has also emerged that three-time world champion Verstappen, who coasted to victory in Saturday’s season-opener in Bahrain, has a release clause in his £50m-a-year contract which allows him to leave should team adviser Helmut Marko depart Red Bull.

Horner was keen last year to quietly dispense of 80-year-old Marko, who is a firmly ally of the Verstappen family. The divide has resulted in rumours that Verstappen could leave prior to his contract ending in 2028, speculation exacerbated further when Jos was seen in conversation with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff in the Bahrain paddock.

On Wednesday, ahead of this Saturday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Verstappen was asked if he could ever see himself at Mercedes and refused to rule out a shock switch.

“The thing is, nobody would have ever seen that Lewis [Hamilton] would move to Ferrari,” he told reporters in Jeddah. “That’s not related to F1, it’s just general life. You never know what happens around you or what might influence you. You can never say 100 per cent what is going to be.

Horner is present in the F1 paddock in Saudi Arabia this week (Getty Images)

“But I also don’t think about it too much – I’m very relaxed. I’m very happy with the team, the performance is there, there is no reason to leave.”

Mercedes driver Russell insisted that the Silver Arrows should target Verstappen if the Dutchman becomes available. Wolff, however, was more reserved in his assessment of the situation, saying there is “no reason” for Verstappen to leave Red Bull, given their current domination.

“The [2025 driver] market is very interesting,” he told Sky Italia. “For a driver, the most important thing is to be with whoever is fastest, and there is no reason now for Max to leave Red Bull anytime soon.

“But we’ll see what happens.”

Horner, 50, is the longest-serving team principal on the F1 grid, having been at the helm since the team’s inception in 2005.

Horner, who back in 2021 signed a contract extension at Red Bull until 2026, was made a CBE in the New Year’s Honours list for services to motorsport, having previously received an OBE in 2013.

He has been in charge of Red Bull for six constructors’ championship victories and seven drivers’ championship triumphs – three for Max Verstappen and four for Sebastian Vettel.

Red Bull won 21 out of 22 races in 2023 in their most successful year so far in Formula 1, with Verstappen storming to his third-straight championship.

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