Christian Horner accuses Red Bull rivals of using ‘dirty tricks’ to gain advantage

Oracle Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner looks on in the Paddock prior to practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 07, 2024 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Christian Horner has hit back at his rivals - Getty Images/Clive Rose

Christian Horner has accused his rivals of a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign, stirring up the controversy over Red Bull’s internal investigation into his conduct to try to gain a competitive advantage.

The Red Bull team principal described it as the “not-so-pretty side of our industry” but repeated that he was not going anywhere and insisted that three-time world champion Max Verstappen was not going anywhere either. Verstappen’s father Jos called for Horner to resign last Sunday, saying the team would “explode” if he remained in post. Horner, speaking in Saudi Arabia for the first time since those remarks, said he was “certain” Verstappen would see out his contract, which runs until 2028.

Horner was last week cleared of allegations of controlling behaviour made by a female colleague after an internal investigation carried out by an independent barrister. Speaking a few hours after news broke that his accuser had been suspended for being ‘dishonest’ during the investigation, Horner spoke about the emotional toll the episode had taken on his family. And he accused his rivals of using the controversy to try to “take advantage”.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff and McLaren chief executive Zak Brown have been among the most prominent voices calling for more “transparency” over the affair. Red Bull’s rivals have asked the sport’s governing body the FIA to look into the matter, arguing the negative headlines were damaging for the sport and saying the sport needed to stand for inclusivity.

Mercedes AMG team principal Toto Wolff smiling during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on February 29, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain
Toto Wolff caleed for transparency over the allegations and subsequent investigation of Horner - Getty Images/Kym Illman

“Unfortunately, Formula One  is a competitive business, and there have been, obviously… elements have looked to benefit from it,” Horner said. “And that’s perhaps the not-so-pretty side of our industry.

“So, of course, there are always lessons. But there’s a process that is governed within the company. It’s not an FIA issue, it’s not a Formula 1 issue, it’s a company employee issue, and that would be the same in any major organisation.”

Horner said he was “aware” of Jos Verstappen’s comments but said there had been “discussions” since then and insisted the focus was now “very much on the future”.

Verstappen has been strongly linked to Mercedes, who have a vacant seat next year with Lewis Hamilton moving to Ferrari.

Asked whether he was confident Verstappen would stay at Red Bull, Horner said: “I’m certain that he will. I mean, he’s got a great team around him. He’s got great faith in that team. And, you know, we’ve achieved an awful lot together.”

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 3 months with unlimited access to our award-winning website, exclusive app, money-saving offers and more.