Inside Red Bull civil war: The four men who want Christian Horner out

Red Bull Racing threatens to tear itself apart as the row over Christian Horner's 'inappropriate behaviour' and internal power struggle continues

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Red Bull’s hopes of avoiding a civil war may prove to be futile as the battle between Christian Horner and other high-ranking executives continues to rumble on inside the Formula 1 team.

The under-fire team principal has survived several waves of speculation regarding his future to lead the team to 1-2 finishes in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to ensure they pick up from where they left off last year.

But there is no sign of Red Bull’s internal power struggle ending anytime soon as things came to a head at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. According to reports, special advisor Helmut Marko feared he would be suspended before clearing the air with managing director Oliver Mintzlaff.

There could yet be more twists and turns as the situation unfolds later into the season, with Horner’s future still uncertain heading to the next race at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. So, who wants the long-serving Red Bull supremo out?

Oracle Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner and Geri Horner walk in the Paddock holding hands prior to the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 02, 2024 in Bahrain. Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Oracle Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner and Geri Horner walk in the Paddock holding hands prior to the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 02, 2024 in Bahrain. Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Horner IN: Christian Horner, Chalerm Yoovidhya

After the death of company founder Dietrich Mateschitz in October 2022, Horner is said to have tried to expand his sphere of influence in the energy drink company.

That involved cosying up to the team’s Thai majority shareholder, Chalerm Yoovidhya, and it was a move that didn’t go down well with the suits in Salzburg, who felt he was adding a layer of protection for himself.

Horner has maintained that he would refuse to resign even at the height of the alleged scandal involving a female employee, with the 50-year-old later cleared following an independent investigation.

The reason for this is that he feels he is the team’s biggest asset, beyond Max Verstappen or Adrian Newey, due to the fact he has enjoyed success with the team for some 18 years. Horner now wants to prove that is the case, and Yoovidhya is ready to stand behind him as he did – literally – in Bahrain when he made a rare public appearance.

The billionaire sees Horner as a “foster son”, according to former F1 driver Ralf Schumacher and is ready to stand by him “unconditionally” to protect him any further attempts to oust him.

Horner OUT: Helmut Marko, Oliver Mintzlaff, Jos Verstappen, Adrian Newey

The dissenting group is growing larger with every week that Horner remains in the job.

It has been known for some time that relations have not always been smooth between Horner and Helmut Marko, who holds a significant amount of power in the team due to his connections with the late Mateschitz. Accoding to Austrian outlet Auto Motor und Sport (AMuS), the 80-year-old has stopped Horner in his tracks with some audacious plans, causing tension within the team.

That was reflected by Mintzlaff’s emergency meeting with Marko in Jeddah to reassure him the company were not going to suspend him. Marko’s role as a mediator between the Thai owners and Austrian board members should not go understated, and Mintzlaff’s attempts to keep him in the team automatically pit him against Horner if he sides with Marko staying.

Helmut Marko and Max Verstappen celebrate after the 2024 Saudi Arabian GP | Clive Rose / Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

And Marko, who holds a good relationship with Jos Verstappen, father of their driver Max, would get the Dutchman’s backing. Jos has already called for Horner to leave over the allegations made against him and their heated conversation in Bahrain reflects the frosty relationship. Likewise, three-time world champion Verstappen has promised to walk out the door if Marko is sacked and they are yet to call his bluff.

But it proves that Horner is quickly running out of allies. Similarly, his attempts to remove star designer Newey, 65, from the team and focus on the RB17 Hypercar have proved fruitless, and it is believed Newey could be poached by one of their F1 rivals. Even considering their long-time relationship, it may not be long until Horner runs out of supporters on his side.

Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who has worked for a number of media organisations, including the Daily Express, The Mirror, Evening Standard, The Independent and Bleacher Report. Joe has been following F1 since when he watched Mika Hakkinen clinch the 1999 drivers' championship, and his first taste of real-life racing action was watching David Coulthard spin off into the gravel at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2001.
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