Christian Horner, the Red Bull team principal, is under investigation concerning allegations of ‘inappropriate controlling behaviour’ towards a female colleague.
The investigation, which has been confirmed by parent company Red Bull GmBH in Austria, is being carried out by an “external, specialised lawyer”. A statement added it would “not be appropriate to comment further at this time”.
Telegraph Sport understands the colleague in question is female and the allegations are of ‘controlling’ behaviour on the part of Horner. The 50-year-old issued a firm denial on Monday, saying: “I reject these claims entirely.”
Horner is one of the most recognisable faces in the sport thanks to the huge success of Red Bull, his starring role in the Netflix Drive to Survive series, and his marriage to Geri Horner (née Halliwell), a former member of the Spice Girls.
Red Bull have won six constructors’ titles and seven drivers’ titles since the team launched in 2005, with Horner not having missed a race since. Last year the team won a double world championship for the second year running, with Max Verstappen picking up his third drivers’ world title.
The allegations first surfaced on the website F1-Insider.com on Monday lunchtime. The report said “rumours emerged during the Hahnenkamm ski race in Kitzbühel” last week. “Various Formula One decision-makers were also there as guests, such as McLaren boss Zak Brown and Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff,” the report added.
Almost as soon as the website report appeared, Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf also published the same information.
Horner was locked in an F1 Commission meeting with his fellow team principals for most of Monday. The seriousness of the allegations, which landed midway through the meeting, would have been a source of acute discomfort to Horner who is understood to have stopped proceedings to address the matter and protest his innocence.
Formula One declined to comment. It is understood that the sport is reluctant to say anything at this stage based on such little concrete information, especially after what happened with the FIA’s short-lived ‘investigation’ last month into a potential conflict of interest between Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff and his wife Susie Wolff, the F1 Academy managing director. That investigation was dropped within 48 hours when all nine of Mercedes’ rivals denied making any official complaint.
Red Bull Austria, the Austrian energy drinks company which owns the F1 team, confirmed an investigation into Horner was ongoing.
“After the company was informed of certain recent allegations, an independent investigation has been launched,” it said. “This process, which is already underway, is carried out by an external, specialised lawyer.
“The company takes these matters extremely seriously and the investigation will be completed as soon as practical as possible. It would not be appropriate to comment further at this time.”
It may not be coincidental that Red Bull Austria is taking ownership of the matter, with suggestions that there may be an internal power struggle at Red Bull between the parent company and the team.
The company has undergone a management restructure since the death of Red Bull co-founder and billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz who died in October 2022, aged 79.
The company is now owned by Mateschitz’s son Mark Mateschitz (49 per cent) and Chalerm Yoovidhya (51 per cent) who is the eldest son of Chaleo Yoovidhya, the originator of Krating Daeng and co-creator of the Red Bull brands of energy drinks.
Oliver Mintzlaff, a senior executive within the Red Bull football division who used to be chairman of RB Leipzig, was appointed chief executive in November 2022.
Dr Helmut Marko, Red Bull’s 80-year-old motorsport advisor, who was a close confidant and friend of fellow Austrian Mateschitz, still wields significant influence behind the scenes. Both Horner and Marko were forced to deny reports last year that the outspoken Marko might be ousted as part of a power struggle. The Austrian reportedly signed a new three year-deal with the energy drinks manufacturer over the winter.
Red Bull will launch their new car on February 15 at their Milton Keynes base, with triple world champion Verstappen in attendance.
Pre-season testing takes place in Bahrain from February 21-23, with the first race of the season, also in Bahrain, on March 2.