FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem is reportedly under investigation for allegedly interfering with the result of a Formula One race.

According to the BBC, a report by motorsport governing body’s compliance officer Paolo Basarri to the ethics committee says Ben Sulayem acted to overturn a penalty given to Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso at the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The PA news agency has contacted the FIA, but it is understood that because matters like this rest with the ethics committee, an independent body, the FIA is unlikely to offer any comment while any due process runs its course.

The BBC report claims a whistleblower alleged Ben Sulayem called Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa – FIA vice-president for sport for the Middle East and North Africa region, who was in Saudi Arabia for the race in an official capacity – and made it clear he thought Alonso’s penalty should be revoked.

The removal of Alonso’s 10-second penalty, imposed for work done on his car while he was serving a previous five-second penalty, returned him to the podium behind Red Bull duo Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen, after the sanction had dropped him to fourth.

At the time there was no suggestion there was anything untoward with the decision after Aston Martin’s sporting director Andy Stevenson had put the team’s case to stewards in a right of review.

Christian Horner staged a face-to-face meeting with Max Verstappen’s representative in Dubai on Monday in a bid to iron out escalating tensions at Red Bull.

The summit was held 48 hours after Verstappen’s father, Jos, said Red Bull would “explode” if Horner remained in his role as team principal.

The PA news agency understands that neither Jos or his son, Max, were present, with Verstappen’s manager Raymond Vermeulen acting on the Dutch driver’s behalf.

A source told PA the talks “went well”. Senior Red Bull figures were also said to be present. The next grand prix takes place in Saudi Arabia on Saturday.

Verstappen’s victory at the opening round of the season last weekend in Bahrain was overshadowed by continued controversy surrounding Horner.

Following the race Horner said he was “absolutely confident” he would 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.

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

But, speaking to the Daily Mail, 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 said: “There are no issues here. The team are united and we are focused on racing.”

Jamaica’s Motorsport Athlete of the Year, Fraser McConnell, secured the second spot on the podium for the 2023/24 Nitrocross season, while Robin Larsson clinched his second consecutive title.

McConnell's stellar track record continues as he finished one position higher than his third-place finish in 2022/23.

During the 2023/24 season, the Jamaican driver demonstrated remarkable skill and determination by securing a decisive victory in Oklahoma on June 16, marking an impressive start.

Mechanical issues hindered his performance, possibly preventing him from reaching the podium in rounds two and three in Utah in August. However, McConnell bounced back strongly in rounds five and six in Phoenix, Arizona, finishing first and second on November 10 and 11.

McConnell is gearing up for another thrilling season of sprint racing in 2024/25 as Dreyer & Reinbold Racing confirms the extension of his contract for another year,

"We are thrilled to announce Fraser McConnell's continued partnership with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing for the upcoming NitroCross season," said team owner, Dennis Reinbold. "Fraser's exceptional talent and dedication to excellence embody the spirit of our team, and we are confident that together, we will achieve even greater heights in the 2024-25 season."

McConnell also looks forward to a third season with the team, “I’m happy to continue this opportunity with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. The team has felt like family over the last two years and it’s a huge honour to continue with the best team in the paddock."

On his 2023/24 results, he added,

“It is so incredible to finish on the podium once again, last year third, this year second, next year I’m coming for that trophy!”

“We definitely have what it takes to win the championship. We finished strong here in Las Vegas and next season will be no different.” he added.

The fourth season of Nitrocross gets underway on September 7 & 8 with Rounds one & two slated for a new venue, Richmond Raceway, in Virginia.

Reigning world champion Max Verstappen opened the 2024 Formula One season with another commanding victory but it is the controversy surrounding his Red Bull team that provided the headlines in Bahrain.

Team principal Christian Horner has faced intense scrutiny following allegations made against him by a female colleague – claims he has always denied – and the drama continued to unfold in the paddock at the season opener.

With claims and counter-claims coming from different names in and around the Red Bull garage, the issue will now roll on into the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix this weekend.

Here, the PA news agency answers some of the key questions that hang over the ongoing situation.

Where did all of this start?

Red Bull Racing’s parent company Red Bull GmbH announced on February 5 that Horner was being investigated following an accusation of “inappropriate behaviour” by a female colleague. Horner emphatically denied the claim and the 50-year-old stayed on as team principal after Red Bull confirmed that the grievance has been dismissed last week. But, just 24 hours later, messages and a number of images apparently exchanged between Horner and the complainant were sent from an anonymous email account to 149 members of the F1 paddock – including FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem, F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali and the grid’s nine other team principals, as well as members of the media – on the eve of race in Bahrain.

What did Horner have to say about the email?

The Red Bull boss, who is married to former Spice Girl Geri, released a statement as news of the anonymous email broke. “I will not comment on anonymous speculation, but to reiterate I have always denied the allegations,” it read. “I respected the integrity of the independent investigation and fully co-operated with it every step of the way. It was a thorough and fair investigation conducted by an independent specialist barrister and it has concluded dismissing the complaint made. I remain fully focused on the start of the season.” Horner was then questioned several times while in the paddock but refused to speak on the subject.

What impact did it have on the team over the race weekend?

On the surface, at least, very little. Verstappen put his Red Bull on pole position and bar an early charge from the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, the Dutchman never looked like being challenged on race day. He did, however, say after qualifying that Horner had been “a little bit distracted” and was twice asked if he had full confidence in his boss – not offering a definitive answer to either question.

Race won, case closed?

Not at all, no. Not only does the complainant have a right to appeal against the decision to allow Horner to continue but Verstappen’s father – former F1 driver Jos – has said he believes the situation “is driving people apart”. Having been close to his son for all of his three championship wins, Jos does wield some power and his words could worry those within the Red Bull set-up as they look to keep their all-conquering title winner happy. “There is tension here while he (Horner) remains in position,” Verstappen Snr told the Daily Mail. “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.” Red Bull later dismissed such claims, telling the PA news agency the team remains “united”.

So what happens next?

The teams are currently preparing for the second race of the new season in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Verstappen will face the media on Wednesday where he will no doubt be asked about his father’s comments. His reply to such questions could set the tone for the weekend as Horner will once again aim to keep things focused on the track rather than a situation away from it that does not seem to be going away any time soon.

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.

Christian Horner’s leadership has been cast into fresh doubt after Max Verstappen’s father, Jos, claimed Red Bull is “in danger of being torn apart” if the under-fire team principal remains in his role.

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

Horner’s job 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, 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.”

During an extraordinary week in Bahrain, Horner was exonerated by Red Bull Racing parent’s 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 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?”

The PA news agency has approached Red Bull Racing for comment.

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.

Horner said: “I am not going to comment on anonymous speculative messages from an unknown source. 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 today 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 in just four days when the cars hit the track in practice for the next round in Saudi Arabia.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has urged Formula One and its governing body to “set the compass right” amid continued controversy surrounding Christian Horner.

Horner was earlier this week cleared to continue as Red Bull team principal following an internal probe into “inappropriate behaviour” towards a female colleague.

But the 50-year-old faced subsequent scrutiny after a series of leaked WhatsApp messages –  appearing to be exchanged between him and his complainant – were leaked to all the major players in the sport.

FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem told the Financial Times on Friday that the turmoil is “damaging the sport on a human level”. F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali has not commented on the matter.

Earlier this week, Wolff called for greater transparency from Red Bull Racing’s parent company, Red Bull GmbH, who conducted the investigation.

The Austrian corporation said it was confident the inquiry into Horner had been “fair, rigorous and impartial” and added that the report – understood to stretch to 150 pages – is “confidential”. Horner has always denied the claims.

“Let’s see where it goes in the next days,” said Wolff on Saturday night. “I would very much hope that the governing body, the sanctioning body and the commercial rights’ holder sets the compass right.

“But the moment I start to continue to question how this has been handled, I am probably not doing any good to the whole issue, because then it could be seen as this just being about a power fight within F1.

“That’s why I think it’s not in the team’s hands. It’s a much bigger topic than that and I don’t want to diminish the whole situation by making it seem like the Mercedes guy is talking about the Red Bull guys.”

Wolff was speaking after a disappointing opening race of the season for his Mercedes team at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

George Russell started third and finished fifth – 47 seconds behind winner Max Verstappen – with Lewis Hamilton taking the chequered flag in seventh, 50 sec adrift.

Wolff continued: “Max is in a different league, a different galaxy. We just have to acknowledge his performance levels.

“But I believe that the group of Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes were probably in a similar ballpark. We just need to look at ourselves, get on top of our problems and if we are able to manage our race weekend better, we will be racing those guys.”

Christian Horner said he is “absolutely confident” he will ride out the storm of his life and remain as Red Bull team principal for the rest of the season.

The build-up to the first round of the Formula One campaign here in Bahrain has been overshadowed by allegations whirling around Horner.

But the 50-year-old, who was joined by his wife Geri in a defiant show of unity ahead of Saturday’s 57-lap race, can take temporary relief from seeing Max Verstappen lead a Red Bull one-two, with Sergio Perez second.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz crossed the line in third, one place ahead of team-mate Charles Leclerc, with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton a disappointing fifth and seventh respectively for Mercedes.

Asked if he is confident he will stay on as Red Bull team principal for the rest of the season, Horner replied: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

During an extraordinary week in the Gulf kingdom, Horner was exonerated by Red Bull Racing parent’s company, Red Bull GmbH, on Wednesday following an internal probe into allegations of “inappropriate behaviour” made by a female colleague.

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

Horner has remained steadfast throughout, and strode hand-in-hand with Geri along the paddock one hour and 45 minutes before the lights went out.

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

Horner planted a kiss on wife Geri before he headed to the Red Bull pit wall to watch his team blow away their rivals. Geri later headed to the garage to watch the race.

The pair stood together smiling underneath the podium as Verstappen celebrated his 18th win from the past 19 races.

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

“And my focus is going racing, winning racing 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.

Horner said: “I am not going to comment on anonymous speculative messages from an unknown source. 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 today 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.

“You could see what it (the win) meant to the whole team. It is better to do your talking on the track.

“I have always been entirely confident that I would be here and my focus is on the season, and the races we have ahead.”

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

Max Verstappen delivered for Christian Horner’s crisis-hit Red Bull team by winning the opening race of the Formula One season in Bahrain on Saturday.

The build-up to the first round of the campaign here in the Gulf Kingdom has totally been overshadowed by allegations whirling around Red Bull team principal Horner.

But Horner, who was joined by his wife Geri in a show of unity ahead of Saturday’s 57-lap race, can take temporary relief from seeing Verstappen lead a Red Bull one-two, with Sergio Perez second.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz took the chequered flag in third, one place ahead of team-mate Charles Leclerc with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton a disappointing fifth and seventh respectively for Mercedes. McLaren’s Lando Norris finished sixth.

During an extraordinary week in Bahrain, Horner was exonerated by Red Bull Racing parent’s company, Red Bull GmbH, on Wednesday following an internal probe into allegations of “inappropriate made by a female colleague.

Hundreds of WhatsApp messages appearing to be written by him were then leaked to the F1 world a day later.

Horner has remained defiant throughout and put on a show of unity with his Spice Girl wife Geri, as they strode hand-in-hand along the paddock one hour and 45 minutes before the lights went out.

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

Horner planted a kiss on wife Geri before he headed to pit wall to watch his team blow away their rivals.

Verstappen has raced to the past three world championships and his crushing streak looks set to continue into 2024 following a commanding lights-to-flag win.

The Dutch driver saw off team-mate Perez’s challenge by 22.4 seconds to take his 18th win from the last 19 F1 races and, remarkably, his 36th victory since Hamilton last won a grand prix.

“Great start to the year, guys, a one-two finish, as well so fantastic,” said Verstappen over the team radio.

Horner replied: “As you say, Max, pole-position, one-two finish, fastest lap, a clean sweep. A brilliant way to start the year. Thanks very much.”

Such was Red Bull’s stranglehold on last season’s championship, that they were afforded the luxury of turning their attention to this year’s machine earlier than their competitors.

And revered designer Adrian Newey appears to have built a car which could take Verstappen to another stratosphere.

After holding off the challenge from Ferrari’s Leclerc on the run down to the opening corner, his victory never appeared in doubt. By the end of lap 11, Verstappen had already pulled 10 seconds clear.

Behind, Russell was on the move – taking second from Leclerc on the third lap in an encouraging start for the Mercedes man.

But that would be as good as it got for the Silver Arrows, with Perez moving ahead of Russell on the exit of Turn 4 on lap 14 before Sainz gazumped the British driver for third three laps later.

Hamilton started ninth and was making little early progress, complaining on lap 25 that his seat was broken.

He started to make his way through the field, getting past McLaren’s Oscar Piastri on lap 35 and then Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin for seventh on lap 39.

But the seven-time world champion, who will join Ferrari next year, made no inroads into Norris ahead before Mercedes’ poor evening was dealt another blow when Leclerc took fourth off Russell with 11 laps to run.

Hamilton finished 50 seconds behind Verstappen.

For Verstappen, it was another emphatic display, with fireworks exploding into the night sky as he cemented his status as the overwhelming favourite to march to another title – despite Red Bull’s ongoing off-track turbulence.

Sauber Academy Driver Zane Maloney, of Barbados, completed a fine performance from eighth on the grid to take his maiden Formula 2 victory in Friday’s Bahrain Sprint for the Rodin Motorsport team.

Reverse grid polesitter Jake Crawford held onto a podium finish in second for DAMS, and rookie driver and Red Bull Junior Josep María Marti, took a fine third for Campos Racing.

The 20-year-old Maloney, sped from eighth to first within eight laps, and comfortably controlled the pace from there to register his maiden win in the 23-lap race around the Bahrain International Circuit. He passed the finish line with a plus-five-second advantage over Crawford, while Martí finished a second and a half further back, as he converted an 11th-place starting spot into a podium finish.

“Of course, I’m very happy to win the race, we started in P8 (position eight), got a great start and the team just gave me an amazing car, so it is all down to them, and we will go for it (on Saturday) in the feature race,” Maloney said after the race.

“It was an amazing race. Of course, it started with a great start and then a good first two laps. I always put my car in the right place, which was good. After that, to be honest, I was happy to settle in my position and try to save the tyres a bit.

“While saving the tyres, I was still keeping up so then I decided to just go for it, get in the lead and think about the tyres after that which I did. It worked out very well. The team gave me a great car so that is the reason," he added.

Formula 2 is the second tier to Formula 1 racing organised by the FIA, motorsport’s world governing body, and held on select circuits on the Grand Prix schedule. The Formula 2 feature race is scheduled for Saturday and Maloney is buzzing with excitement, as he will start third on the grid.

“I mean that’s always the goal; I didn’t think I would win, but the plan was to try and win (on Saturday). Every day is different so we just need to look at the data and see what we can still do better, try to improve. For sure starting third, I need to have a good start again and go into the race how I did (on Friday). The goal is to win (on Saturday) for sure," Maloney declared.

“I came out of Turn 11 on the inside, and I wasn’t really looking for it, but then I saw it was on and I had to go for it,” he said about his move to get past Fittipaldi and into the top three. I know Enzo is a very respectful driver, so I knew he was a hard racer, but he is not just going to force me off the track, which is why I tried for it. I mean it was on the edge, but it was great," he ended.

In an impressive performance at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, Fraser McConnell secured victory in Round 9 of 10, the first of two final races, keeping himself in contention for the Nitrocross series 2023/4 title. McConnell dominated the penultimate round on Friday night.

Taking an early lead in the six-lap final, McConnell faced a challenge when Oliver Eriksson overtook him in the heavy braking zone. That lead was short-lived as McConnell tagged him just after the joker merge two turns later to regain the lead.

Following Eriksson's setback, a fierce battle unfolded among Larsson, Timmy Hansen, and Andreas Bakkerud, allowing McConnell to extend his lead. Despite Hansen and Larsson taking their jokers on laps three and four respectively, neither could catch up to McConnell. 

McConnell, who recently extended his contract with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing for the 2024-25 season, crossed the finish line 3.760 seconds ahead of Larsson to take the win.

The Nitrocross 2023/4 season concludes on Saturday in Las Vegas with everything at stake in round 10 at the Nitrodome in Planet Hollywood.

Christian Horner continues to fight for his Formula One career following a string of allegations against the Red Bull team principal.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the key questions surrounding Horner, Red Bull, and the sport.

What were the accusations against Horner?

On February 5, Red Bull Racing’s parent company GmbH confirmed Horner was under investigation following an accusation of “inappropriate behaviour”. The company said it “takes these matters extremely seriously and the investigation will be completed as soon as practically possible”.

Horner denied the claim – made by a female colleague – and remained as team principal and CEO of the Milton Keynes-based team. It is understood the complainant also continued in her role.

How did Red Bull react?

Horner was questioned by a lawyer for eight hours at a secret London location. There was no immediate resolution and Horner subsequently appeared at Red Bull’s car launch on February 15.

He continued to dismiss the allegations. Horner then headed to Bahrain for last week’s three-day test before returning to England, while Red Bull’s Austrian board met to discuss his future.

What was the verdict?

On the eve of this weekend’s curtain raiser – and 23 days after it emerged Horner was under investigation – Red Bull GmBH said the grievance against the 50-year old had been dismissed.

The corporation said it was confident the investigation had been “fair, rigorous and impartial” but added that the report, understood to stretch to 150 pages, is “confidential”. However, a number of senior figures in the sport felt Red Bull’s probe lacked transparency.

So, what happened next?

Twenty-four hours later, a number of messages and images apparently exchanged between Horner and the complainant were 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.

What did Horner say?

Horner released a statement saying: “I will not comment on anonymous speculation, but to reiterate I have always denied the allegations.”

He was back in the paddock a day later for qualifying as Max Verstappen took pole position. There was speculation that another damning email leak against Horner would arrive on Friday – but it failed to materialise.

Will the FIA take any action?

It is understood the FIA explored bringing a disrepute charge against Horner – and assessed the legalities of seeking Red Bull to hand over its report – but no action has emerged.

Neither F1, nor its regulator, has commented publicly on the latest allegations. Horner met with both Domenicali and Ben Sulayem on Friday.

And what about Red Bull’s sponsors and partners?

There is thought to be considerable unrest and unease behind the scenes following the latest allegations to hit Horner – but there has been no public comment from Red Bull Racing’s two biggest partners – Ford and Oracle.

Will Horner be on the pit wall for Saturday’s race?

Yes. It is understood Horner remains defiant that he can see out the controversy.

His wife Geri Halliwell flew to Bahrain and could be trackside on Saturday, while Chalerm Yoovidhya, who owns 51 per cent of the Red Bull group, might also be in attendance.

Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes have delivered a car capable of putting him in the fight at the front – despite qualifying only ninth for Saturday’s opening round of the season in Bahrain.

Max Verstappen saw off Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc by two tenths to capture pole position, with Hamilton’s team-mate George Russell next up, a third of a second back.

Hamilton raised hope that he might take the challenge to Verstappen when he finished fastest in practice here on Thursday.

However, the 39-year-old, entering his final campaign for the Silver Arrows before he joins Ferrari, finished half-a-second adrift.

But an optimistic Hamilton said: “It is amazing to see how close everyone is, and George’s position is testament to how amazing a job all those working at the factory have done to give us a car to fight.

“The car is really fantastic, and a big improvement from previous years.

“It is stable and more fun to drive. For George to be three tenths off Max is incredible and it shows what is possible.

“We just have to add performance, but if that is our platform, we can definitely chase for the rest of the season.

“For the first qualifying session to be as poor as that when you put in so much preparation is disappointing, but that is racing.”

Verstappen is expected to romp to his fourth consecutive world championship in his all-conquering Red Bull machine.

But the Dutch driver was made to work for the 33rd pole of his career under the thousands of bulbs that light up the Sakhir Circuit.

Verstappen headed into his final run with less than a tenth in his pocket over Leclerc before extending his margin to the Ferrari driver.

Despite taking top spot, Verstappen apologised for what he perceived to be a scruffy lap.

“Don’t be sorry, Max,” said a weary-sounding Christian Horner – whose Formula One future is again in the spotlight after hundreds of WhatsApp messages appearing to be written by him to a female colleague were leaked. “You finished two tenths clear of Charles and three tenths ahead of George.”

Verstappen added: “It was a lot of fun. I am very happy to be on pole, and it was a little bit unexpected. The car came to us and I felt happier than I did in practice.

“The race is going to be close, too, but we will see tomorrow. I am confident we can have a strong race.”

While Verstappen qualified first, Sergio Perez was fifth in the other Red Bull, one place ahead of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.

British driver Lando Norris will line up in seventh for McLaren, with Williams’ Alex Albon 13th.

Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly will prop up the grid following a miserable qualifying session for the Alpine team.

Red Bull’s superstar driver Max Verstappen stopped short of providing his full support for embattled team principal Christian Horner.

Verstappen temporarily took the spotlight off Horner – whose Formula One future is again in the spotlight after hundreds of WhatsApp messages appearing to be written by him to a female colleague were leaked – when the Dutchman secured pole position for Saturday’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

But moments after capturing top spot, Verstappen was quizzed on how the latest allegations surrounding Red Bull had affected his preparations, and if Horner remains the right person to lead the crisis-hit team.

“From my side, and, from the mechanics and engineers, we’re fully focused on the car, and fully focused on the weekend which is how it should be and that is what we continue to do,” said Verstappen.

Appearing to swerve the question about Horner, he added: “It’s not our business to get involved in that. We are paid to do our job, that is what we are out there doing, and that is what we love doing and that is what I focus on.”

Verstappen was asked again if he still had faith in Horner.

“When I look at how Christian operates within the team he has been an incredible boss so from the performance kind of things you can’t question that,” he added.

“I speak to Christian a lot and he is fully committed to the team.

“He is here for the performance, and of course he is a little bit distracted, but we just focus on performance and that is how we all work together.”

On Wednesday, Horner was cleared to continue as Red Bull team principal following an internal probe into “inappropriate behaviour” by the F1 team’s parent company, Red Bull GmbH. He has always denied the claims.

But just 24 hours later, a number of messages and images apparently exchanged between Horner and the complainant were 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.

Domenicali and Ben Sulayem spoke on Friday to discuss the next steps.

Horner’s wife, Geri Halliwell, flew to Bahrain and could be with her husband at Saturday’s race. Chalerm Yoovidhya, who owns 51 per cent of the Red Bull group, might also be in attendance.

Neither F1’s American owners, Liberty Media, nor its regulator, the FIA, have seen Red Bull GmbH’s report into Horner, which is thought to stretch to 150 pages and was said to be “confidential”.

The FIA considered the legalities of asking Red Bull to hand over its report, and examining if Horner might have breached two clauses of its International Sporting Code.

Article 12.2.1.c of the code states that a competitor will have committed an offence if there was “any fraudulent conduct or any act prejudicial to the interests of any Competition or to the interests of motor sport generally”.

Article 12.2.1.f highlights “any words, deeds or writings that have caused moral injury or loss to the FIA, its bodies, its members or its executive officers, and more generally on the interest of motor sport and on the values defended by the FIA”.

Meanwhile, article 12.2.1.g states that “any failure to cooperate in an investigation” would breach the code.

However, the likelihood of any action receded as another extraordinary day – which included speculation that another damning email leak would arrive but never did – wore on.

Horner spoke only once about the latest allegations as he made his way from Red Bull’s hospitality suite to the team’s garage earlier on Friday.

“I am not going to comment on anonymous speculation from unknown sources,” he said. When asked what comes next, Horner replied: “We go racing.

Max Verstappen temporarily took the spotlight off team boss Christian Horner by putting his Red Bull on pole position for the opening round of the new Formula One season in Bahrain.

The build-up to the first race of the campaign has totally been overshadowed by allegations whirling around Horner.

The 50-year-old was exonerated by Red Bull Racing parent’s company, Red Bull GmbH, following an internal probe into “inappropriate behaviour” against a female colleague on Wednesday – before hundreds of WhatsApp messages appearing to be written by him were leaked to the F1 world a day later.

However, Horner, who has always denied any wrongdoing and remains in his role, was on the world champions’ pit wall here in Bahrain to see Verstappen claim his first pole of a season in which he is expected to romp to his fourth consecutive world championship in his all-conquering Red Bull machine.

But the triple world champion was made to work for the 33rd pole of his career under the thousands of bulbs that light up the Sakhir Circuit with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc second, two tenths back.

George Russell finished third for Mercedes, one place ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz. Lewis Hamilton will line up in ninth on the grid.

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