Max Verstappen’s father: Red Bull could be ‘torn apart’ if Horner stays amid controversy

Max Verstappen’s father: Red Bull could be ‘torn apart’ if Horner stays amid controversy

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Fractures within Red Bull Racing appear to have grown after Max Verstappen’s father, Jos, warned the team was “in danger of being torn apart” if Christian Horner remained in charge amid the ongoing controversy surrounding the team principal.

Horner remains in the spotlight after a turbulent few days in Bahrain to start the new Formula One season. Although Verstappen scored his eighth consecutive grand prix victory with a dominant display, beating teammate Sergio Pérez by over 20 seconds, his father spoke publicly about divisions within the team as the situation remains the biggest story in the sport.

The situation became public in early February when Red Bull GmbH, Red Bull Racing’s parent company, announced it had launched an investigation into allegations made against Horner of inappropriate behavior, which it said it took “extremely seriously.”

On Wednesday, Red Bull announced that the investigation, conducted by an outside party, had led to the grievance being dismissed, noting the complainant had the right to appeal. The next day, a cache of messages allegedly between Horner and the female complainant was anonymously leaked to high-ranking F1 officials and the international media. The Athletic, which received the email leak directly, has not been able to verify the contents, and Horner has repeatedly declined to comment on the messages.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, Jos Verstappen warned: “There is tension here while (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.”

Chalerm Yoovidhya (center), whose family holds a 51% shareholding in Red Bull, joined Christian Horner (second from right) and his wife Geri Halliwell-Horner (right) for the Bahrain Grand Prix podium ceremony. (ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP)

Jos Verstappen raced in F1 between 1994 and 2003 and has been central to his son’s career and success, though he has no formal role on the team. He made similar comments about the controversy in a separate interview with Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, also published Saturday night after the race.

Asked about Verstappen’s comments, a Red Bull spokesperson said, “There are no issues here, the team are united and we are focused on racing.”

Tensions escalate

Jos Verstappen’s comments publicly put the father of the team’s star driver in opposition to its team principal.

He attends the vast majority of his son’s races. Although he is not an employee of Red Bull Racing, his closeness with Max means he is regarded to hold a certain degree of influence. On Thursday, he was seen wearing a Red Bull team jacket while watching the second practice session in Bahrain, during which the anonymous email was circulated.

After the race, Horner said he was “not going to comment on what motives, whatever person may have” for the leak.

Jos denied to both the Daily Mail and De Telegraaf that he was involved in the leak, telling the Daily Mail, “That wouldn’t make sense. Why would I do that when Max is doing so well here?”

There have been growing suggestions of friction within the team ever since the death of Red Bull co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz in October 2022. Mateschitz was the undisputed leader of the company’s F1 efforts, and his absence has led to increased tensions between senior figures within the company.

Following the race, Horner said he was “absolutely” confident he would remain in charge of the team and that his “focus is on the season ahead and the races we have ahead” after the completion of the investigation process.

“The grievance that was raised was dismissed,” Horner said. “End of. Move on.”

He said it had “not been pleasant, the unwanted attention,” but spoke of the “tremendous support” he felt from within the team and the wider Red Bull company.

On the grid ahead of the race, Horner spoke with Chalerm Yoovidhya, the son of the Red Bull co-founder, whose family holds a 51% shareholding in Red Bull GmbH. Horner and his wife, Geri Halliwell-Horner, were joined by Yoovidhya and his wife to watch the podium celebrations after Max Verstappen’s victory. Jos stood a couple of rows behind them during the ceremony.

Max Verstappen has maintained throughout the investigation into Horner that he is fully focused on what is happening on the track and that the situation has not distracted him from his preparations for the new season.

Asked by The Athletic after taking pole position on Friday whether he still had full faith in Horner’s leadership, Verstappen said: “When I look at how Christian operates within the team, he has been an incredible team boss.

“So absolutely, from the performance side of things, you can’t even question that.” Verstappen said he spoke “a lot” to Horner and that the Red Bull team principal was “fully committed to the team.”

His father’s comments, nevertheless, will lead to fresh questions about the dynamic with Horner ahead of the second round of the season in Saudi Arabia in a few days.

Max is under contract at Red Bull until 2028 after signing one of the longest and most lucrative contracts in F1 history following his maiden championship success in 2021.

The nature of the brewing tension at Red Bull led to Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff (who has called for transparency in the probe) being asked if there was a chance Verstappen could drive for the team for 2025 as a replacement for Lewis Hamilton.

Wolff said: “A driver will always choose the quickest car. That is fundamentally what it is all about. At the moment, Red Bull is the quickest car, so that will in my opinion, that will always be the priority.”

(Lead photo of Max Verstappen with his father Jos Verstappen ahead of the Bahrain GP: Clive Mason/Getty Images)

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Freddy Mason

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