Red Bull ‘united’ amid claim it could be ‘torn apart’ if Christian Horner stays

By Sports Desk March 03, 2024

Formula One’s crisis-hit Red Bull team insists it remains “united” after Max Verstappen’s father, Jos, claimed it is “in danger of being torn apart” if Christian Horner remains in his role.

A defiant Horner has said he is “absolutely confident” he will stay on as Red Bull boss for the remainder of the season after overseeing Verstappen lead a one-two finish from team-mate Sergio Perez at the opening round in Bahrain.

Horner has faced intense scrutiny in recent weeks following allegations against him made by a female colleague. Horner has always denied the claims.

But speaking to the Daily Mail newspaper following Saturday’s 57-lap race, Verstappen Snr added further fuel to the fire when he said: “There is tension here while he (Horner) remains in position.

“The team is in danger of being torn apart. It can’t go on the way it is. It will explode. He is playing the victim, when he is the one causing the problems.”

Responding to Verstappen Snr’s comments, a Red Bull Racing spokesperson told the PA news agency on Sunday: “There are no issues here. The team are united and we are focused on racing.”

During an extraordinary week in Bahrain, Horner was exonerated by Red Bull Racing’s parent company, Red Bull GmbH, following an internal probe into allegations of “inappropriate behaviour”.

But hundreds of WhatsApp messages, appearing to be exchanged between Horner and the complainant, were then leaked to the F1 world.

Verstappen Snr, who is not an employee of Red Bull Racing, has been accused in some quarters of attempting to oust Horner from his job.

But the 51-year-old father of Red Bull’s three-time world champion continued: “That wouldn’t make sense. Why would I do that when Max is doing so well here?”

Horner strode hand-in-hand with wife Geri in the paddock one hour and 45 minutes before Saturday’s race.

Red Bull’s majority shareholder, Thai billionaire Chalerm Yoovidhya, also joined the duo on the team’s terrace in a public show of support for Horner.

Speaking after the chequered flag had fallen, Horner was asked if he is confident he will stay on as Red Bull team principal for the rest of the season. He replied: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

He continued: “I have the support of an incredible family, an incredible wife, an incredible team and everybody within that team.

“And my focus is on going racing, winning races, and doing the best I can.

“It was a day about starting the season in the best possible way. My focus is on this team, my family, my wife and racing.”

Horner was also quizzed about the leaked Google file which was sent from an anonymous email account to 149 members of the F1 paddock – including FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem, F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali and the grid’s nine other team principals, as well as members of the media.

“I am not going to comment on anonymous speculative messages from an unknown source,” Horner said. “I am not going to comment on what motives whatever person may have for doing this.

“Obviously, it has not been pleasant with some of the unwanted attention, but the focus is very much on the cars and my focus has been on what is happening on track and the result (on Saturday) demonstrates where the focus is and we move onwards.

“There was a full, lengthy internal process that was completed by an independent KC and the grievance that was raised was dismissed. End of. Move on.”

Horner is set to be back in the spotlight on Thursday when the cars hit the track in practice for the next round in Saudi Arabia.

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    Christian Horner has knocked back criticism that Max Verstappen’s stranglehold on Formula One is “boring” by describing his star driver’s unstoppable form as a “golden moment”.

    Verstappen claimed his fourth win from the five rounds so far this season with a commanding drive at Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix to establish a 25-point championship lead.

    The Dutch driver has failed to triumph at only two of the last 23 races staged in the sport, and he is the overwhelming favourite to secure a fourth world crown in as many seasons.

    Speaking prior to Sunday’s race, Lando Norris, who finished runner-up to Verstappen in Shanghai, admitted that seeing the “same driver win without a fight is boring”, and a “turn-off” for fans.

    But addressing claims that Verstappen’s dominance is damaging the sport, Red Bull team principal Horner said: “You have to appreciate success. Max is a special talent and this is a golden moment for him.

    “As we have seen with every single driver in the past, it doesn’t last forever. It is about enjoying the moment and being in the moment and there are no guarantees we can give him a car like this for the next five years.

    “Max is just a metronome. The pace he showed last year, he has continued that through.

    “And since the last Chinese Grand Prix in 2019, he has won 50 per cent of all the races. He has won 21 out of the last 23 races. He is in fantastic form, at one with the car and the team and enjoying his racing.”

    Verstappen also won the first sprint round of the season in Shanghai.

    The dash to the chequered flag took place before qualifying for Sunday’s main event in a rejig this year.

    Verstappen, 26, has often criticised the format, and although he agreed the new schedule is better than in previous years, he urged F1 bosses not to increase the number of sprints – which is set at six this season.

    “The sprint format was more straightforward that it has been but let’s not overdo it,” said the triple world champion.

    “We are already doing 24 races in a season and six of these sprint events, too. I guess it sells better and the television audience numbers increase, but it also increases the pressure on the mechanics to ensure everything is tip-top.

    “So, we have to deal with it, but let’s not now think that we need 12 of these (sprints) because it will take its toll on people in the sport.”

  • Toto Wolff hopeful Lewis Hamilton’s morale will not plummet after bad start Toto Wolff hopeful Lewis Hamilton’s morale will not plummet after bad start

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is confident Lewis Hamilton’s morale will not plummet despite his continued worst start to a Formula One season.

    Hamilton fought back from his lowly 18th grid slot to finish ninth in Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix.

    But the British driver, in his final season with Mercedes before his blockbuster transfer to Ferrari, leaves Shanghai only ninth in the standings after failing to finish inside the top six at either of the opening five rounds.

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    But Wolff said: “Lewis is a pro and he has behaved that way, trying to keep his morale up and the morale of the team up, even if the results have not come his way. I have no doubt this will last.”

    Hamilton has now gone 50 races and 868 long days without a victory and he was exposed to yet another sobering afternoon in his uncompetitive Mercedes.

    Following his worst qualifying result in seven years, Hamilton started on the quickest, but less-durable soft rubber, but just two laps into this 56-lap affair, his complaints began.

    “I am making no ground on this tyre,” he said after dropping from 18th to 19th.

    Hamilton made the first of his two pit-stops on lap nine and rejoined back in 19th, 53 seconds off Max Verstappen’s leading pace.

    “That was the worst tyre, man,” said the despondent 39-year-old.

    Hamilton was soon back on the intercom. “I can’t even catch him (Alpine’s Esteban Ocon), man,” he said. “This car is so slow.”

    Hamilton’s fortunes improved on lap 21 when he stopped for a second time, with the virtual safety car (VSC) deployed after Valtteri Bottas broke down.

    And as the marshals struggled to shift Bottas’ stricken Stake, the VSC was upgraded to a full safety car, promoting Hamilton up the order.

    He would be 12th at the restart, but he was still bemused by his unruly machine.

    “The car is just sliding around everywhere,” he said. “It just feels like something is broken. It is really bad.”

    Daniel Ricciardo suffered floor damage after Lance Stroll thumped into the back of his RB, elevating Hamilton into 10th before he swatted Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg aside.

    Hamilton was then up to eighth as Fernando Alonso made a maverick third stop for tyres. But the 42-year-old took advantage of his fresh rubber to blast back through the field, relegating Hamilton back a place with seven laps remaining.

    The seven-time champion took the chequered flag nearly one minute behind Verstappen.

    “This is the worst season so far, as I mentioned at the last race,” said Hamilton. “It definitely wasn’t better than expected because we expected to finish there today.

    “I have never had so much understeer in my life. I thought I damaged my car because there was debris on the track at one point, but it was just the way I set the car up.

    “We finished second in the sprint race yesterday and, with better decisions on setup today, we would have been where George finished. We have to keep fighting.”

  • Max Verstappen powers to dominant victory in Chinese Grand Prix Max Verstappen powers to dominant victory in Chinese Grand Prix

    Max Verstappen powered to another dominant win in Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix – as Lewis Hamilton complained his car was “slow” and “broken” after he finished ninth.

    Verstappen emerged unscathed from two safety car periods to secure his 38th win from the last 49 staged in Formula One on his unstoppable march towards a fourth straight championship.

    But for Hamilton, now 50 races and 868 long days without a victory, this marked another sobering afternoon in his uncompetitive Mercedes.

    McLaren’s Lando Norris delivered an impressive performance to finish second, one place ahead of Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz fourth and fifth for Ferrari.

    George Russell could manage only sixth for Mercedes as the grid’s once-dominant team endured another race to forget.

    F1 is back in Shanghai following a five-year absence, and it was a venue that Hamilton once ruled, winning a record six times here.

    But the sport has a new king now, with Verstappen securing his fourth win from the opening five rounds – his only downfall in Australia when his Red Bull engine expired. For Hamilton, hampered by starting only 18th, his worst-ever season continued.

    As Verstappen blasted away from his marks to convert his pole position into an all-too predictable early lead, Hamilton was evidently struggling for speed in his Mercedes.

    Hamilton started on the quickest, but less durable soft rubber, but just two laps into this 56-lap affair, his complaints began.

    “I am making no ground on this tyre,” he said after dropping from 18th to 19th. Hamilton made the first of his two pit-stops on lap nine, and re-joined back in 19th, 53 seconds behind Verstappen.

    “That was the worst tyre, man,” said the despondent 39-year-old after switching to the medium rubber.

    Up front and Fernando Alonso, who moved from third to second following a fine move around the outside of Perez at the opening bend, was starting to slip down the order.

    On lap five, Perez sailed past the evergreen Spaniard, before Norris swooped ahead at the penultimate corner two laps later.

    Back to Hamilton, and he was now 15th after making his way ahead of RB’s Yuki Tsunoda at the first bend. But his mood had not improved.

    “I can’t even catch him (Alpine’s Esteban Ocon), man,” he said. This car is so slow.”

    Speed has not been a problem for Verstappen since he denied Hamilton a record eighth crown at the 2021 decider in Abu Dhabi.

    Temporarily demoted to third by virtue of changing tyres earlier than his competitors, the Red Bull star breezed past Leclerc on lap 16 before re-taking the lead from Norris three laps later.

    Hamilton’s fortunes improved on lap 21 when he stopped for a second time with the VSC deployed after Valtteri Bottas broke down. And as the marshals struggled to shift Bottas’ stricken Stake, the VSC was upgraded to a full safety car, promoting Hamilton up the order. He would be 12th at the re-start, but he was still bemused by his machine.

    “The car is just sliding around everywhere,” he said. “It just feels like something is broken. It is really bad.”

    In came the safety car on lap 26, but it was back out moments later after Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll clumsily thudded into the back of Daniel Ricciardo, and Kevin Magnussen punted Yuki Tsuonda off.

    Ricciardo suffered floor damage, elevating Hamilton into 10th and a single-point paying position before he swatted Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg aside for ninth on lap 41.

    Hamilton was then up to eighth as Alonso made a maverick third stop for tyres. But the 43-year-old took advantage of his fresh rubber to blast back through the field, relegating Hamilton back to ninth with seven laps remaining. Alonso would cross the line in seventh.

    Verstappen took the chequered flag 13.7 sec clear of Norris to extend his championship lead to 25 points with Hamilton – almost one minute behind his one-time rival – still searching for a top-six finish this season.

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