Max Verstappen refuses to back Christian Horner after Bahrain pole

The Red Bull boss is caught in an inappropriate conduct controversy but has remained in his post at the 2024 Bahrain GP

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Max Verstappen might be on pole position for the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix but that doesn’t mean Christian Horner can catch a break over the alleged WhatsApp chat leaks as he hinted someone might be out to get him and continued to deny any wrongdoing.

The team principal had a 24-hour respite between the race team’s Austrian parent company Red Bull GmbH declaring the grievance had been dismissed, and the unverified leaks of a supposed chat between him and a female employee, including photos.

Verstappen‘s pole meant he spoke to the media for the first time since the ‘leak’ was sent, and he was asked if he believes Horner is still the right man to lead Red Bull.

“For my side, and I think from what I can see from the mechanics and the engineers we are fully focused on the car and the performance here during the weekend,” Verstappen told the press. “And that’s how it should be, I think, and that’s what we continue to do. Because it’s not our business.

“We’re not, particularly involved in that, and we are here, we are paid to do our job and that’s what we are doing and that’s also what we love doing you know, so that’s what we’re focussing on.”

Horner hints at targeting behind leak

Max Verstappen enjoys a champions’ chat with Red Bull team principal Christian Horner as he is presented with a celebratory helmet after the 2023 Qatar GP sprint | Mark Thompson/Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

It’s suggested that Horner has been falling out with key personnel within the racing team such as Adrian Newey, Helmut Marko and Jos Verstappen, the father of Max.

Nobody knows the source of the leak yet – a Google Drive sent following the strictly confidential investigation that Red Bull hired an external lawyer to conduct after allegations of inappropriate behaviour against the 50-year-old team boss, and Horner hinted at that question without giving his own opinion.

Red Bull Racing has reportedly been in the midst of a power struggle following the death of their founder, Dietrich Mateschitz, in 2022 to cancer.

“I can’t comment on that I’m afraid,” Horner told Viaplay when asked if he thinks he’s being targeted. “But it’s all you can draw your own conclusions.

“Obviously it’s a distraction, or has been a distraction, but the grievance has been concluded and the complaints were dismissed, so for me it’s business as usual, I’m focusing on racing.”

Horner summoned to FIA and F1 bosses

As interested parties, the CEO of Formula 1 and the President of the FIA both have spoken to Horner about what has unfolded over at the race weekend so far, with Mohammed Ben Sulayem (FIA) pulling him away from Free Practice 3 to speak to him about the issue.

Later, Stefano Domenicalli (F1) spoke to the Red Bull boss too. Importantly, the FIA have the power to strip Horner of his licenses for their authorised sporting bodies if he is found to have brought the competition and it’s reputation into disrepute although there is no indication of that currently happening.

For now, the man married to Ginger Spice is free to conduct his racing duties for the remainder of the weekend and Red Bull are yet to comment on the unfolding developments.

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