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Although Red Bull strives to appear unified, the controversy surrounding Horner and F1 continues to linger.
F1 Sport

Although Red Bull strives to appear unified, the controversy surrounding Horner and F1 continues to linger.

After weeks of turmoil at Red Bull Racing, the team’s beleaguered principal, Christian Horner, had issued a plea at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, more in hope than realism, that it was time to draw a line under the controversy that had surrounded him and his team.

Unfortunately, any optimism that may have been present during Formula One’s recent break has been dashed. As we head into the Australian Grand Prix this weekend, the focus will once again be on the ongoing disagreements within Red Bull, as the temporary ceasefire comes back into question.

Horner has endured the most turbulent and difficult two months of his career since it was made public in early February that he was being investigated for alleged inappropriate behaviour after a complaint made by a female employee of the team. The grievance was dismissed on 28 February just before the season-opening Bahrain GP.

Despite Horner’s continuous denials of any wrongdoing, there was no relief in sight. Just a day later, an email was leaked to the FIA, F1, the teams, and the media, allegedly containing correspondence between Horner and the accuser. Since then, the controversy has only escalated.

Prior to the race in Saudi Arabia, there seemed to be a power struggle brewing within Red Bull. The father of world champion Max Verstappen, Jos, was actively advocating for team principal Christian Horner to resign. At the same time, the team’s motorsport director Helmut Marko faced the possibility of being suspended, which led Verstappen to consider leaving the team. In response, Horner dismissed Verstappen’s ultimatum, reminding him that no individual is more important than the team.

The F1 team experienced an unusually intense period of disagreement and conflict, which was highly visible to the public and went against the typical desire for strict control over information and reputation within organizations.

Max Verstappen looks on during previews ahead of the Australian Grand Prix at Albert ParkView image in fullscreen

When the lights went off in Jeddah, Red Bull claimed that their team was standing united and any conflicts had been resolved. They were using all available resources to make a strong impression and achieve as much success as they could.

The attempt proved fruitless. Soon after, it was discovered that the person who made a complaint had been temporarily removed from her position, possibly due to doubts about the information she provided during the inquiry. As a result, the employee chose to challenge the Horner ruling.

Last week, it was announced that she filed a formal complaint to the ethics committee of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) regarding Horner’s behavior. This came after a whistleblower made two previous reports to the FIA in the past weeks regarding Horner and Red Bull. The FIA and Red Bull have chosen not to comment on these reports.

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The different groups involved are certainly aware of all of these issues and have likely used the time leading up to the Melbourne event to think about and plan new strategies. From the power struggle within Red Bull between the Thai owners who support Horner and the Austrian arm of the parent company, to the internal conflicts between Horner and the Verstappens and Marko – which are all connected to the larger battle – it is clear that simply claiming there is harmony now will not result in a peaceful resolution in Melbourne.

The widespread consequences of this situation are causing great worry and will be discussed again in Australia. The lack of openness has sparked many theories, and the recent developments have increased concerns about how the issue has been managed and its potential to harm the sport’s image. Numerous team leaders have expressed dissatisfaction with how it has been handled and are urging the FIA to intervene.

The FIA and Formula One are reportedly seeking access to the investigation’s information, but are currently unable to receive it due to confidential agreements. Nevertheless, the FIA may now be required to participate in the investigation and address complaints to its ethics committee. Instead of subsiding, the situation may potentially be growing worse.

This weekend, Red Bull has the chance to prove their dominance in the current season. However, the focus on politics within the team and in the larger F1 community often overshadows the actual racing and the impressive car they bring to the track.

Source: theguardian.com