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The Horner saga has brought up speculation about the true happenings in Formula 1. The changing landscape of F1 has sparked curiosity about behind-the-scenes events.
F1 Sport

The Horner saga has brought up speculation about the true happenings in Formula 1. The changing landscape of F1 has sparked curiosity about behind-the-scenes events.

Say what you like about Christian Horner, but when it comes to crisis PR management he is a star pupil. On Thursday evening in Saudi Arabia, he was asked 12 questions about the storm raging at Red Bull, but his message never deviated. Nine times he used the words “move on”, “look forward” or “move forward”. And on 16 occasions he stressed the need to focus on the future. On the race, the season, the track – anything, in fact, but the soap opera swirling around him.

At one point, he stated, “There has been a significant amount of coverage surrounding this matter.” However, he believes it is time to shift our attention towards the events on the track. This is a perfect example of the three key elements in crisis PR management – acceptance, acknowledgment, and affirmation.

The Red Bull team has adopted a consistent approach during the past two weeks, despite the challenges they have faced. They have chosen to continuously reaffirm their message and move forward, no matter the obstacles they encounter. However, team principal Christian Horner has learned that this strategy is not always effective, especially when their competitors are taking advantage of any weakness.

One source states that the other teams are finding joy and gleefully taking pleasure in the misfortune of Christian, who is not well-liked as a team leader. However, they also feel irritated and concerned that this drama is overshadowing the true focus of the competition.

Currently, Red Bull’s team leader is dealing with issues on four different fronts. Initially, Horner was found not guilty of misconduct towards a female coworker, who has since been put on paid leave. However, there is still the possibility of an appeal from the involved woman, although it has not been made yet and she has until next week to do so. Red Bull has declined to comment, stating that it is an internal matter. If an appeal is made, it could generate more media attention and potentially shake Horner’s stability once more.

It is still unclear whether the leaked messages between Horner and a female colleague are authentic or not. Additionally, it is unknown if these messages were part of the two-month internal investigation led by KC. Despite his strong denial, Horner has consistently chosen not to address the leaked email. As a result, these inquiries continue to linger.

Another potential issue is the constant rumor of additional leaked messages that have yet to be revealed. This speculation has been circulating in pit lane for more than a week, but it may turn out to be unfounded. Nonetheless, it creates a sense of uncertainty for Horner – never knowing what may surface and when.

Unfortunately, the actions of Max Verstappen’s father, Jos Verstappen, are causing unnecessary tension and conflict within the team. While Horner has denied that the senior Verstappen’s behavior is affecting the team, this is not a belief shared by anyone in the F1 community.

In addition to all of this, there is a continuous conflict for control at Red Bull, which has been present since the passing of the company’s billionaire co-founder, Dietrich Mateschitz, in 2022.

According to reliable sources, Red Bull HQ is aiming to limit Horner’s authority and gain back control of the F1 team, as its influence over the team is significantly less compared to their other sports investments. Yet, this poses a challenge due to the strong support for Horner from the Thai majority shareholder, Chalerm Yoovidhya. It is possible that the continuous media attention could sway opinions eventually, or the situation may settle down. However, the outcome remains uncertain.

Red Bull’s Max VerstappenView image in fullscreen

The current situation highlights a larger issue within F1, specifically the unequal distribution of power between men and women. While some in the sport argue that progress has been made, it is concerning that the president of the FIA, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, wrote on his website in 2001 that he disapproves of “women who believe they are more intelligent than men”.

On Friday night, there was another turn of events, as per Motorsport.com’s report. Red Bull adviser Helmut Marko is now being investigated for possible involvement in “various media leaks” that occurred after it was revealed that Red Bull’s energy drink company was looking into team principal Christian Horner.

When asked if a suspension could happen starting from Monday, Marko replied on Austrian TV: “I can’t say for sure, but I will make my own decision about what to do. There is always a chance it could happen though.” Red Bull has not given a statement at this time.

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An executive, who is no longer in F1, was surprised by what he dubbed as a “common culture of sexist and misogynistic actions and absence of diversity” within the sport.

During the Thursday press conference, Horner was questioned specifically about the visual impression of this recent incident and its potential impact on female supporters of F1 – particularly since Red Bull has previously promoted the sport as a welcoming environment for women.

“I believe it is a complex matter, as every company has a grievance procedure,” he stated. “This process is private between the parties involved, and even if I wanted to discuss it, I am unable to due to confidentiality limitations.”

That was a perfectly fair response, but Horner then turned his focus on the media, and his rivals. “The only reason it has gained so much attention is because of leakage in the media,” he insisted. “And that’s been trying, particularly for my family because it’s all been focused in one direction.

Afterward, others have capitalized on the situation and sought to profit from it. This may not portray the most positive aspect of our sport.

Once again, Horner assured that he will not be leaving. He also stated his belief that Max Verstappen will fulfill his current contract until 2028.

The message was clear: for Red Bull it will be business as usual in the Saudi Arabian desert this weekend. On the track few would disagree. But off it, there remains a sense of shifting sands and deepening uncertainties.

Source: theguardian.com