The full timeline of Christian Horner scandal: Denial, dismissal and Google Drive

As the Christian Horner scandal approaches its second month in the F1 headlines, how has it all unfolded so far

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When Lewis Hamilton announced his move from Mercedes to Ferrari from 2025, it looked like the Formula 1 story of the decade. Actually, it may not even have been the biggest story of its own offseason.

The investigation into Christian Horner in response to an official complaint from a female Red Bull employee, accusing the team principal of ‘inappropriate behaviour’, didn’t rock the F1 world like Hamilton‘s earthquake when it was first announced.

Instead it has built and built as more details have been reported, denied, leaked, and reached a deafening crescendo at the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix – dominating headlines and taking all oxygen away from the on-track action.

There are precious few details that are confirmed facts – with Red Bull not even revealing the specific nature of the allegations – and plenty of rumours with varying levels of credence. But the situation will be resolved one way or the other, and here’s how it’s unfolded so far:

February 2: Potential wrongdoing first reported

Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf learns that Red Bull have started an independent investigation into Horner, while the team principal himself makes no comment in response to the rumours.

February 5: Red Bull announces investigation

Red Bull Racing‘s parent company – Red Bull GmbH – publicly announces the investigation into Horner. While it’s an internal investigation, an external lawyer is called in, while Horner denies any wrongdoing.

“Following the recent allegations coming to light, the company has launched an independent investigation,” Red Bull‘s statement read. “This process, which is already underway, is being conducted by an external specialist lawyer.

“The company is taking this matter very seriously and the investigation will be finalized as soon as possible. It would not be appropriate to comment further at this time.”

Horner is understood to have then attended an all-day hearing to defend himself against the allegations.

February 15: Horner front and centre of RB20 launch

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Christian Horner take in the RB20, Red Bull’s 2024 F1 car | Total-Motorsport.com

Horner doesn’t shy away from the spotlight as Red Bull launch the RB20, their challenger for the 2024 F1 season. Total-Motorsport.com journalists are in attendance for the embargoed first reveal of the car, before a public launch later that evening.

The event focusses on celebrating Red Bull‘s 20th season and the journey they’ve been on since the team’s first race in Australia in 2005 – which has seen them rack up 13 world championships and 113 grand prix victories.

However, there’s no escaping the spectre of the investigation, as it’s the first time Horner will have spoken publicly since it was launched.

Journalists are instructed not to ask Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez or Horner directly about proceedings but all three allude to it in their interviews, stressing that the team is unified and focussed on the upcoming season.

Horner says: “My focus is very much on the season ahead, it has been business as normal. Obviously there is an investigation that I’m complying with and working with fully. So that is very much going on in the background whilst preparing for the season ahead.

“Inevitably there has been a distraction, but the team are very together and everybody’s focused on the season ahead, so it’s been very much business as normal. And yeah, the support has been fantastic.”

Verstappen is the most closely guarded of the three, but actually chooses to actively speak out on the subject.

“It’s the same as always, I can tell you that,” Verstappen adds. “I don’t know who likes to write these kinds of things. But to me with Christian it’s like always.

“From my side, I am very focused on my own performance to get ready, to be fit, to be ready to drive the car, discussing things with the engineers. Plus my whole my life is not only F1, when I’m at home I prefer not to think about F1 too much outside of my scheduled training.”

February 16: Six-figure settlement offer reported

De Telegraaf reports that Horner offered a settlement of £650,000 to the employee that made the complaint, before those claims were made public. There’s no comment from any of the parties involved.

February 21: Horner present at pre-season testing

Under-fire Red Bull team principal faces the media alongside Zak Brown, Bruno Famin, Laurent Mekies and Alessandro Alunni Bravi of McLaren, Alpine, RB and Sauber respectively (L-R), at 2024 F1 pre-season testing in Bahrain | Peter Fox/Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

The F1 circus arrives in Bahrain for pre-season testing, and Horner arrives with it. He carries out all of his usual responsibilities as team principal, including facing the media once again.

On the track, Verstappen leads the rest of the field by over a second after the first day but Ferrari end the test as the fastest, amid plenty of suspicion that Red Bull are holding back performance.

McLaren and Mercedes bosses Zak Brown and Toto Wolff both call for Red Bull to be transparent with the findings of the investigation. After the test has finished, Sky SportsCraig Slater reports that after more than 50 hours of interviews, Red Bull intend to announce their conclusion before cars hit the track on the Bahrain GP weekend.

February 28: Horner cleared by Red Bull

Red Bull keep their word, and announce they have closed the investigation without any further action, and cleared Horner of any wrongdoing. They release a statement on Wednesday evening in Bahrain, before FP1 starts the following day.

However, that timing means every driver has completed their mandated media availability before the news breaks and there are plenty of questions about the investigation.

Verstappen is decidedly cool on his assessment of the situation, simply stating he’s trusting the process. Daniel RicciardoHorner‘s past and present charge – echoes that he hopes the right outcome is reached but also says he feels for Horner.

Red Bull‘s statement reads: “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. 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.”

The following day, Brown and Wolff once again call on Red Bull to be fully transparent with its findings.

February 29: Bombshell leak blows case back open

Potentially one of the most shocking revelations modern F1 history. Not Mercedes finishing 1-2 in Bahrain GP FP2 while Verstappen and Perez appear to struggle in the only representative conditions before qualifying but an earth-shattering Google Drive folder that’s shared to over 100 journalists and senior figures within the sport.

Total-Motorsport.com can confirm the existence of the folder, the bombshell ‘evidence’ can’t be verified but shows supposed messages and images sent between Horner and the female employee.

It’s quickly reported that members of the English press have been threatened with a lawsuit if they publish the material, while Horner releases a statement that reiterates he denies the allegations:

“I won’t comment on anonymous speculation, but to reiterate, I have always denied the allegations. I respected the integrity of the independent investigation and fully cooperated with it every step of the way.

“It was a thorough and fair investigation conducted by an independent specialist barrister and it has concluded, dismissing the complaint made. I remain fully focused on the start of the season.”

March 1: Leak fallout continues

The morning begins with the publication of the Sun’s newspaper revelatory front page, as they’re by far the boldest of the British press with their handling of the leak.

That sets the tone for a hectic day of rumours and comments from across the paddock, with Horner skipping part of FP3 to meet with FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, who’s also set to discuss the situation with F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali.

However, ultimately the clock strikes midnight with Horner still in position as Red Bull team principal and Verstappen on pole for the Bahrain GP. A defiant Horner continues to protest his innocence public without addressing the leak specifically, and a rumoured second dump of evidence never materialises.

Verstappen himself isn’t exactly overflowing with support when asked if he still believes Horner is the right man to lead the team, saying he is “on a performance level” but adding he’s only concentrating on his own performance in Bahrain.

Meanwhile, a source close to the original complainant speaks to the Daily Mail and brands the Red Bull investigation ‘one-sided’, and there’s no indication that developments in this story won’t continue on race day.

March 2: Calls to quit mar victory

Geri Halliwell-Horner puts on a show of support for Christian Horner, holding hands with the Red Bull team principal as he’s interviewed in the paddock ahead of the 2024 Bahrain GP | Clive Mason/Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Geri Halliwell‘s appearance in the paddock with Horner certainly makes a statement – it’s unclear if the Spice Girl was originally scheduled to attend the Bahrain GP.

The story lingers after Verstappen crushes the field to take his eighth consecutive grand prix victory though, as two-thirds of Horner‘s mixed-zone media time is spent answering questions relating to the investigation.

And it doesn’t stop there – the day ends with Jos Verstappen (one of those rumoured to have been behind the evidence leak) publicly calling for Horner to step down.

Adam Dickinson
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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