April 19, 2024

The consternation is evident halfway around the world. Max Verstappen, the Formula One World Driver‘s champion three years running and winner of last week’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, isn’t so much reveling in his accomplishments as he is begging for silence.

And he’s not referring to the ear-piercing, 130-decibel sound coming from his Red Bull Racing 20 car.

“What I want — and that doesn’t matter who is involved in the team or not — is to have a quiet environment where everyone is happy to work,” Verstappen said Thursday in Jeddah ahead of this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Strap sound mufflers on the media, on embattled Red Bull Racing principal Christian Horner, and even on Verstappen’s father, Jos. That’d please Mad Max.

A month ago, Red Bull Racing received a complaint from a female employee alleging inappropriate behavior by Horner, who is married to Geri Halliwell-Horner, formerly known as Ginger Spice of the Spice Girls. Red Bull Racing brought in independent investigator King’s Counsel, which found no wrongdoing by Horner.

The woman who made the accusation was suspended with pay by Red Bull Racing on Thursday, reportedly as a direct result of the investigation, just before a news conference in Jeddah, where Horner said it was time to “move on” and focus on racing.

As for the allegations, he said, “Out of the respect to the company and of course the other party, we’re all bound by the same restrictions. So even if I would like to talk about it, I can’t, because of those confidentiality restrictions.”

Case closed? Hardly.

Several media outlets were anonymously sent a batch of text messages supposedly between Horner and his accuser bearing the subject line “Christian Horner Investigation Evidence.” None appeared to be criminal in nature, but some could be deemed inappropriate.

Horner believes competitors are using the drama to break up Red Bull Racing, which has dominated Formula One for several years. At least two principals of other teams commented on the investigation into Horner’s behavior as well as how the episode reflects on the sport.

Toto Wolff of Mercedes wanted to know details of the investigation, saying: “If it is done in the right way with transparency and rigor, we need to look at the outcomes and what it means for F1 and how we can learn from that.

‘“F1 and the teams, we stand for inclusion, equality, fairness, diversity. And it is not only talking about it, it is living it day in and day out. It is not just a team issue. It is an issue for all of F1.”

James Vowles of Williams took a similar stance, telling Bloomberg: “We all have to look at each other in the mirror and make sure that we are posing the right questions internally and acting in a way that we can only be proud of, not today but in the next 10 years.”

Competitors taking shots could be expected. But Jos Verstappen, father of Red Bull Racing’s star driver and himself a former Formula One champion driver, also spoke out against Horner.

“There is tension here while he remains in position,” he told the Daily Mail after the Bahrain Grand Prix. “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.”

The comment stoked rumors that Max Verstappen would move to Mercedes in 2025. However, this week he insisted he intends to remain with Red Bull at least until his contract expires in 2029 as long as “the performance is there.”

And, presumably, as long as the “quiet environment” is restored.


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