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Christian Horner and Jos Verstappen conflict escalates after birthday party snub

Christian Horner and Jos Verstappen talk - Christian Horner and Jos Verstappen conflict escalates after birthday party snub
The row between Christian Horner (left) and Jos Verstappen has caused major disruption to Red Bull - Getty Images/Clive Rose

The feud between Christian Horner and Jos Verstappen has intensified after the Red Bull chief was reportedly not invited to the Dutchman’s 52nd birthday party.

Horner missed out on the invitation to a celebration in Dubai on Monday night, according to German newspaper Bild, hours after a face-to-face meeting with representatives of Verstappen’s son Max.

He had been hoping to iron out escalating tensions in the team amid the poisonous fallout from an independent investigation that cleared Horner, Red Bull’s team principal, of controlling behaviour towards a female colleague.

Since then he and his wife Geri, known by the surname Halliwell in her Spice Girl days, put on a public show of unity for the cameras at Saturday’s Bahrain Grand Prix. The elder Verstappen, who helps manage his son’s career, is understood to have had a furious row with Horner in the latter’s office the night before what was the first race of the F1 season. He has previously called on Horner to resign.

Telegraph Sport revealed last week that he has a close relationship with the woman whose complaint against Horner sparked their public feud, having been seen with her after Red Bull’s 2021 title victory in Abu Dhabi. The Dutchman will not attend this week’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, where his triple world champion son is certain to be asked who he is backing in the feud that prompted his father to warn: “The team is in danger of being torn apart.”

The champion was said to have attended Monday’s party after posting a touching throwback picture of the pair on Instagram along with the message: “Happy birthday dad.”

Max Verstappen has said he would always stand by Helmut Marko

Verstappen Snr, a former team-mate of seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, will miss this week’s grand prix to compete in at the Rallye de Hannut in Belgium and may not return to watch his son race until the first European grand prix of the season at Imola in mid-May. Also reported to be at Monday’s birthday party was Helmut Marko, Red Bull Austria’s motorsport adviser who gave Verstappen Jnr his big break in motorsport.

Multiple reports in Germany and the Netherlands suggest that the champion, who is contracted to Red Bull until 2028, has an “escape” clause which allows him to follow Marko out of the door should the latter ever leave. After reports emerged last year of a ‘power struggle’ between Horner and Marko, the younger Verstappen said he would always stand by Marko.

“Respect and loyalty are my number one priority. I also feel that mutual respect from Helmut. I will not let him fall,” he said in an interview with De Telegraaf at the end of last year. Speculation he might sensationally quit Red Bull emerged over the weekend, with Telegraph Sport reporting how his father was seen courting Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff in Bahrain.

The Brackley team have emerged as a possible destination should the current furore at Red Bull not die down.

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