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Christian Horner acknowledges the possibility of Max Verstappen departing from Red Bull.
F1 Sport

Christian Horner acknowledges the possibility of Max Verstappen departing from Red Bull.

Christian Horner, the team principal of Red Bull, has cautioned that it is uncertain if the team will be able to keep their three-time world champion, Max Verstappen, if he decides to part ways. The repercussions from the team’s recent tumultuous weekend are still being felt.

Following a contentious race event in Saudi Arabia, the difficulties faced by Red Bull outside of the track garnered much more attention than Verstappen’s impressive second victory of the season in Jeddah. This included the 26-year-old world champion expressing a willingness to leave Red Bull. Horner acknowledged that if Verstappen chose to join another team, Red Bull would not be able to prevent it. When questioned about the likelihood of Verstappen departing before his contract ends in 2028, Horner acknowledged that it was still a realistic possibility.

According to him, it’s similar to anything else in life – you cannot make someone stay just because of a document. If someone doesn’t want to be part of this team, we won’t make them stay against their wishes. This applies to all roles, whether it’s a machine operator, designer, or support staff within the company.

Although there was a lot of commotion over the weekend, Horner reaffirmed that the bond with Verstappen is still strong, despite the driver potentially aligning with the opposing side within the team.

Horner stated that Max is doing well within the team, with no tension or stress. He appears relaxed around the garage and this positive attitude is reflected in his performance on the track. Despite any external noise, the team remains focused on their job and is united as one cohesive team.

Verstappen’s future and a potential move to another team was only the latest crisis to hit the beleaguered Horner and his team over another weekend of turmoil for Red Bull. Still dealing with the controversy around Horner’s investigation for alleged inappropriate behaviour by a female employee, a grievance which was dismissed, what appears to be very real schism and power struggle across Red Bull racing and its parent company Red Bull GmbH rolled on throughout the weekend and shows no sign of abating in the lull before the Australian Grand Prix on 24 March.

The director of motorsport for Red Bull, Helmut Marko, announced on Friday that he was being investigated and could potentially be suspended for allegedly sharing confidential information. Max Verstappen quickly defended Marko and stated that he would consider leaving the team if the 80-year-old was removed from his position.

Marko later spoke with Oliver Mintzlaff, the chief executive of Red Bull GmbH, and stated that the issue had been resolved and closed. However, this incident exposed a divide within the team, as demonstrated once again when Verstappen’s father, Jos, made a second criticism of Horner, suggesting that he should step down as team principal.

Horner responded strongly after the race in Jeddah, declaring that “our team is greater than any individual.” It seemed he was willing to challenge Verstappen’s ultimatum to leave. Despite calling for the issue to be resolved, the events of the weekend only emphasized the internal struggles within the team. This now includes involvement from the Thai majority owners of the parent company (who support Horner), the Austrian branch of the company (rumored to have Verstappen and Marko’s favor), Horner and his opposing parties, as well as concerned sponsors and partners.

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Hamilton praised the outstanding performance of the recipient who was suddenly taken out of his class and placed in a Ferrari, then immediately jumped into practice. This showcased their potential to become a budding star in the future.

Source: theguardian.com