How the FIA could remove Horner as Red Bull team principal

A Red Bull investigation cleared team principal Christian Horner ahead of the 2024 Bahrain GP

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Christian Horner‘s future at Red Bull has continued to dominate Formula 1 headlines at the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix, despite the team principal being officially cleared of any wrongdoing by an investigation.

The team’s parent company Red Bull GmbH launched their investigation after complaints of inappropriate and controlling behaviour were made by a female employee, but concluded proceedings without any further action the day before free practice started at the Bahrain GP.

However, that was far from the end of the story as a folder of alleged evidence from the investigation was leaked to the media – then to the public – after rival team principals Zak Brown and Toto Wolff had also criticised Red Bull‘s lack of transparency.

Red Bull‘s statement clearing Horner was remarkably general, without any specifics of the allegations made, and the supposed leaked evidence (including images and WhatsApp messages) is yet to be verified.

But the FIA are apparently monitoring the situation and commented in February that they’d wait for the investigation to conclude before acting further, while adding they remain committed to “upholding the highest standards of integrity, fairness and inclusivity within the sport.”

Horner still hasn’t been found guilty of anything and the FIA haven’t even launched an investigation yet.

However, article 12.2.1.f of the FIA International Sporting Code does forbid: “Any words, deeds or writings that have caused moral injury or loss to the FIA, its bodies, its members or its executive officers, and more generally on the interest of motor sport and on the values defended by the FIA.”

Additionally, the FIA changed another rule for 2024 making it easier to punish personnel for misconduct. Article 12.2.1.k now deems ‘any misconduct’ a breach of their sporting code, when that section previously specified:

“Any Misconduct towards, but not limited to: licence-holders, officials, officers or member of the staff of the FIA, members of the staff of the Organiser or promoter, members of the staff of the Competitors, suppliers of products or services to (or contractors or
subcontractors to) any of the parties listed above; doping control officials or any other person involved in a doping control.”

Horner himself has previously fallen foul of article 12.2.1.k, receiving an official warning at the 2021 Qatar GP when he blamed the yellow flag that wiped out Max Verstappen‘s best qualifying time on a ‘rogue marshal’.

That’s far from the only example though – Guenther Steiner and Sergio Perez were reprimanded or warned for breaching it in 2023.

Can the FIA sack Horner?

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner talks with Mohammed ben Sulayem, FIA President, on the grid of the 2023 US GP sprint | Chris Graythen/Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

The International Sporting Code is most often applied to drivers and is more tailored towards dealing with matters related to on-track incidents.

Its specified penalties include grid drops and fines – indeed the maximum F1 fine quadrupled to €1 million for 2024 – but they also leave scope for suspension and even exclusion for grave or exceptionally grave offences.

However, it does specify that an ASN (National Sporting Authority) hands out those punishments though – rather than the FIA themselves or the stewards – which would further complicate the case.

“12.10.1 – In addition to that provided for in the Code and in the FIA Judicial and Disciplinary Rules, a sentence of Suspension may also be pronounced by an ASN, and shall be reserved for grave offences.

“12.10.2 A sentence of Suspension, for as long as it remains in force, shall entail the loss of any right to take part in any capacity whatsoever in any Competition held within the
territory of the ASN which has pronounced such sentence or within the territories of any country in which the authority of the FIA is recognised, according to whether such Suspension is national or international.

“12.14.1 Except in the cases provided for in the FIA Judicial and Disciplinary Rules, a sentence of Exclusion can be pronounced only by an ASN, and will be reserved for offences
of exceptional gravity.

Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, previously worked for Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net in motorsport, and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
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