Christian Horner wants his Red Bull future to be resolved “as soon as possible” as the embattled team principal fights to save his Formula One career.

Red Bull Racing’s parent company Red Bull GmbH announced on February 5 that Horner is being investigated following an accusation of “inappropriate behaviour” by a female colleague. Horner denies the claim.

Horner addressed the media alongside four other F1 team principals on the second day of this week’s three-day test in Bahrain on Thursday. The new season starts in the Gulf kingdom next Saturday.

Asked why he has not moved aside as team principal and chief executive of Red Bull Racing with the investigation under way, Horner replied: “As you are well aware there is a process going on which I form part of, and as I form part of that process, I am afraid I cannot comment on it.”

Horner was then asked if he could provided a timeline as to when the investigation might be over.

The 50-year-old added: “I am dreadfully sorry but I really can’t comment on the process or the timescale.

“Everybody would like a conclusion as soon as possible. But I am really not at liberty to comment about the process.”

Sources have indicated to the PA news agency that there could be a resolution before the opening race on March 2.

On Wednesday, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff called for Red Bull’s probe to be transparent, and said the controversy is “an issue for all of Formula One”.

McLaren chief executive Zak Brown, speaking in the same press conference as Horner on Thursday, echoed Wolff’s comments.

“The allegations are extremely serious,” said Brown. “McLaren hold themselves to the highest standards of diversity, equality and inclusion.

“These are extremely important to us and our partners, and to everyone in Formula One.

“Red Bull Corporation has launched an investigation, and all we hope and assume is that it will be handled in a very transparent way, and as the FIA and Formula One has said, swiftly, because these are not the headlines that Formula One wants or needs at this time.”

Red Bull won all but one of the 22 races last year as Max Verstappen stormed to the world championship.

The Dutch driver, in his heavily upgraded machine, set an impressive pace on the opening day in Bahrain, finishing 1.1 seconds clear of anyone else.

Mercedes’ George Russell said: “Red Bull are definitely the favourites and definitely a step ahead of everyone here in Bahrain. They have had an impressive winter, no doubt.

“Hopefully Red Bull are already in that sweet spot, and we can close the gap, but it is going to take a lot of hard work to do so.”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has called for Red Bull’s investigation into Christian Horner to be transparent – and said the controversy is “an issue for all of Formula One”.

Horner is under investigation by the racing team’s parent company Red Bull GmbH following a claim of “inappropriate behaviour” by a female colleague.

The 50-year-old emphatically denies the accusation and remains in his role as Red Bull team principal.

He is in Bahrain for this week’s three-day test ahead of the opening race, also in the Gulf Kingdom, on March 2.

And Horner has stated it is his intention to be in his post for the start of the new campaign.

“It is clear,” Wolff said when asked to address the allegations during the lunch interval on the first day of testing.

“Formula One and the teams stand for inclusion, equality, fairness and diversity, and that is not only about talking about it, but living it day in, day out. These are just standards we set ourselves.

“We are a global sport and one of the most important sport platforms in the world and role models, too.

“But having said that, there is a lot of speculation that has been happening over the past weeks, and lots of things that are going on.

“What is important at that stage is for a process with rigour. I think what Red Bull has started as an independent investigation, if this is done in the right way, with transparency, that is something we need to look at.

“What the outcomes are, what it means for Formula One, and how we can learn from that because we want to talk about racing cars, and we want to talk about the sport, rather than these very, very critical topics that are more than just a team issue.

“It is phenomenon, and an issue for all of Formula One, and every individual that works out there.”

Horner is due to be in the media spotlight at an F1 press conference alongside four other team principals on Thursday.

Speaking at Red Bull’s car launch, last week, Horner said he was unable to provide a timeline as to when the investigation will be completed.

It is understood both Red Bull and Horner are keen for a swift resolution, but sources have indicated that a conclusion is not imminent. F1 bosses have called for the controversy to be “clarified at the earliest opportunity”.

Max Verstappen put Red Bull’s off-track troubles to one side by setting the pace in the opening session on Wednesday.

The three-time world champion ended the running nearly seven tenths quicker than Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso in third, eight tenths back, and the only other driver within one second of Verstappen.

George Russell was sixth for Mercedes, 1.68 secs off the pace. Lewis Hamilton gets his first taste of the final Mercedes he will drive on Thursday ahead of his blockbuster switch to Ferrari next year.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner will be in Bahrain for Formula One’s first day of testing on Wednesday.

The 50-year-old is fighting to save his career in the sport following an allegation of “inappropriate behaviour” by a female colleague. Horner categorically denies the claims.

The PA news agency understands Horner, who remains under investigation by the racing team’s parent company Red Bull GmbH, is due to arrive in the Gulf kingdom on Tuesday evening.

Max Verstappen will take to the wheel of the Red Bull he hopes will carry him to a fourth straight world championship on Wednesday – the first of three days of testing – and Horner is set to be in the paddock to oversee his superstar driver in action.

Horner is also due to speak at an F1 press conference alongside four other team principals a day later.

The opening round of this season’s championship takes place in Bahrain on March 2.

Speaking at Red Bull Racing’s car launch in Milton Keynes last week, Horner insisted he would be in his position for the first race.

Horner said he was unable to provide a timeline as to when the investigation will be completed.

It is understood both Red Bull and Horner are keen for a swift resolution, but sources have indicated that a conclusion is not imminent.

F1 bosses have called for the controversy to be “clarified at the earliest opportunity”.

Last season Red Bull won all but one of the 22 races, with Verstappen taking his third world championship in as many years.

Speaking last week, a defiant Horner said: “The process has been going on in the background.

“Obviously, there’s been a day job to be getting on with, which is gearing up for the season ahead of us.

“I am confident in the process, which I have fully complied with and will continue to do so, and absolutely deny any of the allegations that have been made against me.

“For me, it is business as normal. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be here.”

Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, said it will not comment on Christian Horner’s future until Red Bull’s investigation has been concluded – but added it “remains committed to upholding the highest standards of integrity, fairness and inclusivity within the sport”.

Horner’s role as Red Bull team principal remains in the balance following a claim of “inappropriate behaviour” by a female colleague. Horner emphatically denies the allegations.

On Sunday, F1 bosses called for the controversy to be “clarified at the earliest opportunity”. The new season gets under way on March 2.

A statement from the FIA on Monday read: “In relation to the independent investigation currently being undertaken by Red Bull GMbH, the FIA reiterates that until such time as the investigation has concluded and the outcome is known, we will not be commenting further.

“The FIA remains committed to upholding the highest standards of integrity, fairness and inclusivity within the sport.”

Speaking at Red Bull Racing’s car launch in Milton Keynes last Thursday, Horner, 50, insisted he would be in Bahrain for the opening race.

Horner said he was unable to provide a timeline as to when the investigation by the racing team’s parent company, Red Bull GmBH, will be completed.

It is understood both Red Bull and Horner are keen for a swift resolution and sources have indicated to the PA news agency that there could yet be a conclusion by the end of the week.

However, it is thought unlikely that a verdict will be found before this week’s three-day test in Bahrain which starts on Wednesday.

An F1 spokesperson said: “We have noted that Red Bull has instigated an independent investigation into internal allegations at Red Bull Racing.

“We hope that the matter will be clarified at the earliest opportunity, after a fair and thorough process, and we will not comment further at this time.”

Last season Red Bull won all but one of the 22 races, with Max Verstappen taking his third world championship in as many years.

A defiant Christian Horner said he will not be forced out of Red Bull – and vowed to be in his post as team principal for the first Formula One race of the season.

Horner broke his silence on Thursday after an investigation was launched into an allegation of “inappropriate behaviour” against him by a female colleague.

The 50-year-old, speaking at Red Bull’s car launch in Milton Keynes, revealed he had been “overwhelmed” by messages of goodwill from within the sport, and said his wife, former Spice Girls singer Geri Halliwell, has been “very supportive”.

He also continued to emphatically deny the allegations made against him.

Asked if he will be in Bahrain for the first round of Max Verstappen’s championship defence on March 2, Horner replied: “Yes. I will be in Bahrain.

“The process has been going on in the background. Obviously, there’s been a day job to be getting on with, which is gearing up for the season ahead of us.

“I have a hugely supportive family, a very supportive wife. I have felt the support from within the business and our partners, and the support from within the industry has been overwhelming, too.

“I am confident in the process, which I have fully complied with and will continue to do so, and absolutely deny any of the allegations that have been made against me.

“For me, it is business as normal. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be here.”

Direct questions relating to the internal investigation launched by Red Bull Racing’s parent company Red Bull GmBH – which leaves Horner’s career in the balance – were strictly off-limits.

Horner has been in charge of the F1 team for two decades, but he insisted the investigation has not forced him to ponder resigning.

“Not at all, absolutely not,” said Horner when asked if he had considered his role as team principal and chief executive of the racing team.

“I am fully committed. I built this team. I convinced people to come and work here.

“I’ve been here since the beginning. There have been highs and lows along the way. We have won 113 races. We have won seven drivers’ world championships. We’ve won six constructors’ world championships in 19 seasons, and that’s in the history books.

“But it’s about what lies ahead, because that’s what’s important. So my focus is on the future.”

There had been a strong desire for Horner’s future to be concluded before Thursday’s presentation which marked the 20th anniversary of Red Bull’s involvement as a constructor in the sport.

Horner, who was quizzed by a lawyer for eight hours last Friday, said he did not know when the probe will be concluded.

There will be three days of testing, starting next Wednesday, in Bahrain ahead of the first race, also in the Gulf kingdom. And sources have indicated Horner could face further rounds of questioning as he bids to prove his innocence.

The investigation against Horner has undoubtedly overshadowed the world champions’ preparations for the forthcoming campaign.

Last year, Red Bull won all but one of the 22 races, with Verstappen taking his third world title in as many years.

But the Dutch driver, 26, said: “I don’t feel it (the investigation) has been a distraction.

“Everyone is very focused and very motivated. The spirit in the team has been fantastic. It’s been honestly better than ever.”

Pressed on his relationship with Horner, the triple world champion added: “It is very good.

“We’ve seen each other quite a few times. We’ve achieved a lot of things together so that doesn’t change suddenly.

“My contact with Christian has been the same as on the first day. It’s been like normal.”

Christian Horner will face the media on Thursday as an investigation into an allegation of “inappropriate behaviour” against the Red Bull team principal continues.

The embattled boss is due to attend the world champions’ car launch at their Milton Keynes headquarters in what will be his first public appearance since the accusation by a female colleague surfaced at the beginning of last week. Horner, 50, categorically denies the claim.

For now, Horner remains in his role as team principal and was present at a behind-closed-doors Red Bull test at Silverstone on Tuesday ahead of the new season which starts in just over a fortnight.

Red Bull will unveil their new car on Thursday and Horner is expected to address the media – although the PA news agency understands legalities around the process mean that questions relating to the internal investigation will be off-limits.

Last week, Horner was quizzed by a lawyer for eight hours as part of the probe by Red Bull Racing’s parent company Red Bull GmBH.

There had been a strong desire for Horner’s future to be resolved before Thursday’s launch but sources have indicated that he could face further rounds of questioning as he bids to prove his innocence.

Horner has been Red Bull team principal since they entered F1 19 years ago and is the longest-serving boss on the grid.

During that period he has overseen seven drivers’ world championships and six constructors’ titles. Red Bull have dominated the sport in recent seasons and last year won 21 of the 22 races, with Max Verstappen setting a new record for 10 consecutive victories.

Christian Horner will make his first public appearance on Thursday since an investigation was launched into “inappropriate behaviour” against the Red Bull team principal.

The embattled boss is due to attend the world champions’ car launch at their Milton Keynes headquarters following the accusation by a female colleague which surfaced at the beginning of last week. Horner, 50, categorically denies the claim.

For now, Horner remains in his role as team principal and was present at a behind-closed-doors Red Bull test at Silverstone on Tuesday ahead of the new season which starts in just over a fortnight.

Red Bull will unveil their new car on Thursday and Horner is expected to address the media – although the PA news agency understands legalities around the process mean that questions relating to the internal investigation will be off-limits.

Last week, Horner was quizzed by a lawyer for eight hours as part of the probe by Red Bull Racing’s parent company Red Bull GmBH.

There had been a strong desire for Horner’s future to be resolved before Thursday’s launch but sources have indicated that he could face further rounds of questioning as he bids to prove his innocence.

Horner has been Red Bull team principal since they entered F1 19 years ago and is the longest-serving boss on the grid.

During that period he has overseen seven drivers’ world championships and six constructors’ titles. Red Bull have dominated the sport in recent seasons and last year won 21 of the 22 races, with Max Verstappen setting a new record for 10 consecutive victories.

Christian Horner maintains Red Bull did not raise any official complaint with the FIA over allegations F1 Academy managing director Susie Wolff and her husband, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, shared confidential information.

A report in Business F1 magazine said there is concern among other Formula One team principals that Toto Wolff has had access to information, via his wife, which is not being shared with them that he is using to his benefit.

In her role at the all-female F1 academy, to which she was appointed in March, Susie Wolff reports directly to F1 president and chief executive Stefano Domenicali.

The FIA announced on Tuesday that its compliance department was “looking in to the matter”.

Susie Wolff issued a statement on social media saying she was left “deeply insulted” by the allegations, which she rejected “in the strongest possible terms.”

Horner has dismissed suggestions Red Bull instigated the action from the FIA and pointed to the team’s involvement with the Academy as well as praising the “great job” done by Susie Wolff.

“We have a big rivalry (with Mercedes) on track, but we haven’t raised any official complaint, either about Susie or Toto or Mercedes to the FAI,” Horner said on Sky Sports News.

“In fact, Red Bull has been the team which has got most involved with Formula One Academy from its inception, to the point that between the two Red Bull owned teams we will be entering three cars.

“We have been working closely with Susie, who has been doing a great job on Formula One Academy.

“I think we, like others, were quite surprised at the statement that came out last night, but it certainly wasn’t instigated or required or set off by Red Bull.”

Pressed again over any possible involvement across the organisation’s group, which also includes the AlphaTauri F1 team, Horner said: “We have not raised any official complaint or made any requests to the FAI or to FOM (Formula One Management).

“Indeed, we have been working very closely with Susie on the Formula One Academy – we are the only group that is going to be entering three cars in the academy for 2024.

“It is great work that they are doing with the academy and we are certainly exited about that.

“As far as the other teams, I can’t talk on behalf of others. This is an FAI thing, they have taken this action and, as I say, (it is) certainly nothing to do with Red Bull.”

Later on Wednesday, other F1 teams also went on record to distance themselves from the reported allegations.

A statement from Ferrari read: “We can confirm that we have not made any complaint to the FIA regarding the allegation of information of a confidential nature being passed between an F1 team principal and a member of FOM staff.

“We are pleased and proud to support F1 Academy and its managing director through our commitment to sponsor an entrant in our liveries from next season.”

Using the same wording in statements posted on social media, McLaren, Williams and Haas also rejected suggestions the team had been involved.

Mercedes also released a statement in response, which said it “wholly rejected” what had been alleged.

A statement from Formula One, meanwhile, said it had “complete confidence” the allegations were wrong.

“We have robust processes and procedures that ensure the segregation of information and responsibilities in the event of any potential conflict of interest,” the statement added.

“We are confident that no member of our team has made any unauthorised disclosure to a team principal and would caution anyone against making imprudent and serious allegations without substance.”

Lewis Hamilton cannot be blamed for considering a blockbuster switch to Red Bull following Mercedes’ failure to provide him with a winning machine, Christian Horner has claimed.

Red Bull team principal Horner confirmed on Friday that Hamilton’s father Anthony made an inquiry about the availability of a seat alongside Max Verstappen at the grid’s all-conquering team.

Verstappen has won the past three world championships, while Hamilton last took a victory at the penultimate round of the 2021 season in Saudi Arabia.

“I have known Anthony Hamilton for 15 years and I don’t think he was enquiring about himself to come and drive,” said Horner of Anthony, who managed his son in the formative years of his career.

“I don’t know who represents who, but with the surname you would think they are reasonably close.

“Anthony is a good guy, a proud racing father and inevitably when drivers go through tough spots – and Lewis has not won a Grand Prix for two years – questions will be asked up and down the paddock.

“Lewis is the most successful driver of all time and he hasn’t won a grand prix since 2021. You have not got to be a rocket scientist to work that out and I doubt I was the only one that an inquiry was made to.”

Red Bull will head into the season finale having failed to win just one of the 21 rounds so far. Verstappen has triumphed on 18 occasions – a record for any driver during a single campaign.

Hamilton’s Mercedes team are in a state of flux, but the seven-time world champion signed a two-year deal with the Silver Arrows, worth £100million, in August. Sergio Perez is contracted to Red Bull for 2024.

On Thursday, Hamilton denied seeking a move to Red Bull and claimed it was instead Horner who approached him.

“I have checked with everyone in my team and nobody has spoken to them. However, he (Horner) did reach out to me earlier on in the year about meeting up,” Hamilton said.

Horner added: “It is entirely normal for drivers, drivers’ representatives and drivers’ parents to have different conversations during the year.

“There was never a seat available and there was never any engagement. There are many drivers we hear from during the course of the year.

“We have not had any serious discussions with Lewis and there was never a seat available.”

Lewis Hamilton has denied seeking a blockbuster move to Red Bull – and claimed it was instead Christian Horner who approached him.

Hamilton accused Horner of being “lonely” and “stirring” the pot, following the Red Bull team principal’s claim ahead of this weekend’s season finale in Abu Dhabi that the British driver’s camp inquired about a seat alongside Max Verstappen at the grid’s all-conquering team.

A front-footed Hamilton, who signed a two-year contract extension to remain at Mercedes until the end of 2025 in August, also said Verstappen would not want him as a team-mate.

Asked if he approached Red Bull about joining them, Hamilton, 38, replied: “No. I did not.

“I have checked with everyone in my team and nobody has spoken to them. However, he (Horner) did reach out to me earlier on in the year about meeting up.

“I picked up my old phone which I found at home. It has my old number. I switched it on, and hundreds of messages came through, and one was from Christian to get together and have a catch-up at the end of the season.

“He didn’t say (it was about driving for them). He just said about having a catch-up.

“I replied to him (Horner) on my new phone. It was quite late on that I found his message. It was from earlier on in the year, and it was months later (that I replied).

“I just said, ‘congratulations on the amazing season and I hope we are able to compete with you soon’, and he replied repeating the same thing.

“If you really think about it, there are a lot of people here that like to drop my name in conversations because they know it will make waves and if you are a little bit lonely, and are not getting much attention, that is the perfect thing to do, just to mention my name. He is stirring things.”

Hamilton is set to bring the curtain down on a second winless season. Verstappen has won the last three world championships and heads into the final round with a remarkable 18 wins from 21. Hamilton has described the Dutchman’s machine as the fastest ever seen in Formula One.

“I would be more than happy to race against Max in the same car,” added Hamilton. “That would be wonderful. But I don’t think he wants me to be his team-mate.”

Hamilton has been with Mercedes since 2013, and has said on numerous occasions that he could not envisage being at another team.

He continued: “I have so much respect for (team principal) Toto (Wolff).

“We have a great relationship. And I spoke to him when the story broke. I wanted my team to know because if people think those things (about leaving) it is never positive. Hopefully signing with them has shown my commitment to the team.

“Let’s be realistic, every single driver here dreams of being in a winning car. In my younger days, when I had not had a lot of success, joining Red Bull would have been more attractive to me.

“We have had two really difficult years, and if we were able to beat that Red Bull, that would be a way better feeling than just stepping into the best car.

“That wouldn’t do much for me – stepping into a car that has been the most dominant of all time – but working with my team to beat them. That would be better for my legacy.”

Max Verstappen has beefed up his personal security as he prepares for a hostile reception at Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez’s home race in Mexico.

Verstappen was jeered by Perez’s supporters at last weekend’s podium presentation in Austin as the triple world champion celebrated his 15th win of the season.

Chants of “Checo, Checo” – in support of Perez – were also audible during the Dutch national anthem.

A crowd of nearly 400,000 are expected at the high-altitude Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez over the course of the weekend, with practice starting on Friday and it is understood Verstappen will be flanked by multiple security guards in the paddock.

Perez’s fans are unhappy Verstappen did not help the Mexican secure second place in last season’s championship after he ignored a team order at the penultimate round in Brazil.

Perez has won only twice this season – his last victory in Azerbaijan on April 30 – with Verstappen racing to his third title in as many years.

The paddock in Mexico City has become one of the most manic on the calendar, with drivers mobbed as they make their way from the motorhome to the garage.

And Perez is also expected to have a bigger entourage than normal to cover-off his enthusiastic fanbase.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner and the team’s motorsport advisor Dr Helmut Marko will also be accompanied by security guards.

Speaking after last weekend’s race in Austin, Horner said: “I don’t think Max is going to get the warmest reception in Mexico, but that is water off a duck’s back to him.

“One year you are the villain and the next year you are the hero.”

Perez heads into this weekend’s round 206 points behind Verstappen. However, he is 39 points clear of third-placed Lewis Hamilton, who was disqualified from second at the Circuit of the Americas for running an illegal floor on his Mercedes.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner expects the team's Formula One rivals to close the gap this season.

A superb start to their title defence has already seen Red Bull open a 58-point lead in the constructors' championship over closest competitors Aston Martin.

However, due to the "cultural change" within F1 in recent seasons, referencing the budget cap, Horner believes his team will be unable to maintain their advantage.

As defending champions, Red Bull were allocated the least time in the wind tunnel for this season, with their time reduced further by penalties issued by the FIA for breaching the cap in the 2021 season.

For that reason, Horner is predicting Red Bull's rivals will be hot on their heels later in the season.

"I think it will be very tough for us to develop this car, because when you look at the amount of percentage time less we have compared to some of our rivals, it's significant," he said, quoted on the F1 website.

"But it is what it is. We just have to do the best we can with what we've got, be efficient, effective, and selective in what we choose to develop, and how we apportion our time.

"It's been a total cultural change over the last couple of years. It's a new challenge in Formula 1, how you apply your resources. It used to be a sprint in terms of developing a car as quickly as you could with whatever budget you can rustle up.

"Now it's a question of how and where do you apply your resources, and of course there are so many variables like crash damage, accident damage in there that can have a massive effect on your potential to develop. It's going to be interesting to see how it pans out this year."

Christian Horner says Adrian Newey will by staying at Red Bull for "many years to come" amid speculation over his future.

It has been reported that chief technical officer Newey could leave the Formula One constructors' champions as his contract is up for renewal.

Red Bull team principal Horner dismissed talk that Newey could be on his way out of the team.

"His heart is still very much in Formula One and his commitment to the team is, it's not something…" Horner told Sky Sports News.

"We don't talk about contracts or longevity of contracts, but he'll be here for many years to come.

"There's always going to be rumours in this paddock, that's Formula One."

Horner added: "He's such an important part of our team and popular part of our team.

"It's great to have him with us for the long term, but also to be involved in some of the things we're now getting involved in."

Christian Horner has responded to George Russell saying Red Bull are "embarrassed to show their full potential" and enjoy a bigger pace gap than has so far appeared to be the case. 

Reigning champions Red Bull have dominated the 2023 Formula One season after claiming both pole and the race win in each of the opening three races, including one-twos in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. 

Red Bull have almost double the points of Aston Martin in second in the constructors' championship.

However, at the Australian Grand Prix, Max Verstappen dropped from first to third on lap one, allowing Russell to briefly lead before the Dutchman went on to win the race, while his team-mate Sergio Perez rose to fifth following a pit-lane start.

It prompted Mercedes driver Russell to tell the BBC's Chequered Flag podcast: "For sure, they're holding back.

"I think they almost are embarrassed to show their full potential. I think realistically they probably have seven-tenths [of a second] advantage over the rest of the field.

"I don’t know what the pace difference looks like at the moment, but Max has got no reason to be pushing it, nor [have] Red Bull.

"They've done a really great job, to be fair to them. We can't take that away, and we clearly have to up our game."

When Horner was told about the remarks, he made reference to Mercedes' past dominance of winning eight consecutive constructors' titles before Red Bull ended that run in 2022.

"Okay, that's very generous of him," Horner replied. "His team of all people would know too well about those kind of advantages."

Asked if Russell's comments were true, Horner explained both of his drivers were managing their pace in Melbourne given the intended one-stop strategy before the safety car and red flag dramas.

"There's always an element of managing what goes on in any race," he said. "Because it was a one-stop race and a very early one-stop race, of course there was an element of tyre management which was going on, which was what they were doing.

"[But] Checo wasn't hanging about; he wasn’t cruising around, holding back seven-tenths per lap because he didn't want to show it – the grid was certainly a little bit closer at this venue."

Back-to-back world champion Verstappen leads the drivers' standings by 15 points ahead of Perez, with the season's fourth round on April 30 in Azerbaijan.

Christian Horner has ruled out Red Bull making a move to snatch Lewis Hamilton from rivals Mercedes at the end of the season.

The seven-time Formula One champion looks set to endure another difficult season with Mercedes, having failed to win a race in 2022 – the first year in his career without a victory.

Mercedes' struggles have reignited the debate around Hamilton's future, with the British driver's deal due to expire at the end of the season, and team principal Toto Wolff accepted there can be no complaints in the years to come if Hamilton moves elsewhere.

However, Red Bull would not make a move if Hamilton was to become available, with Horner adamant Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez will remain put for next season.

"What Lewis has achieved in F1 is second to none, but we're very happy with the drivers that we have," he told Sky News.

"They're committed as a pair not only this season but the next season as well. So, I can't see where we would be able to accommodate Lewis."

While Mercedes have struggled so far this season, failing to secure a podium in either of the opening two races, Horner expects the team to improve over the course of the year.

"I'm sure they're going to sort their issues out – we're certainly not writing him off yet," he added.

"We're hearing about big Mercedes upgrades. I'm sure Ferrari aren't happy with their current position as well. So, we're fully expecting things to converge quickly."

Hamilton has spent the past decade with Mercedes and has won six of his seven world titles with the team, the other coming in 2008 during a five-year stint with McLaren.

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