Jos Verstappen will not attend Saudi Arabia GP as new Christian Horner video emerges

Jos Verstappen ahead of Practice 3 at the Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir.
Jos Verstappen called on Christian Horner to stand down from his role as Red Bull team principal - PA/David Davies

Jos Verstappen will not attend this week’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix following his explosive bust-up with Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, as further speculation emerged on Monday regarding his son Max’s future at the team.

Multiple reports in Germany and the Netherlands suggest that Verstappen, the three-time world champion who is contracted to Red Bull until 2028, has an “escape” clause which allows him to follow Helmut Marko out of the door should Red Bull Austria’s motorsport advisor ever leave.

Marko, 80, was the man who gave Verstappen his big break in motorsport, signing him to Red Bull’s junior program in 2014 and allowing him to make his debut in Formula One the following year.

After reports emerged last year of a ‘power struggle’ between Red Bull team principal Christian Horner and Marko, 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,” Verstappen said in an interview with De Telegraaf at the end of last year.

Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing talks to Red Bull Racing Team Consultant Dr Helmut Marko on the grid prior to the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on April 10, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia
Helmut Marko (left) has been an integral part of Red Bull's success in F1 - Getty Images/Mark Thompson

Speculation that Verstappen might sensationally quit Red Bull emerged over the weekend, with Telegraph Sport reporting how father Jos 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. Jos’s absence from this week’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – he will be in Belgium competing in the Rallye de Hannut – should help in that respect.

On Sunday, the former F1 driver broke his silence on the poisonous row that has developed between himself and Horner in recent months, and which came to a head in Bahrain last weekend, calling on the Red Bull chief to resign.

“The team is in danger of being torn apart,” Verstappen Snr told The Mail on Sunday. “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.”

Horner was last week cleared by Red Bull’s parent company in Austria of allegations made against him by a female employee.

But the 50-year-old remains under huge pressure after 79 screengrabs, predominantly made up of WhatsApp messages purportedly between Horner and his accuser, were leaked to the media the day after the complaint was dismissed.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner speaks on a mobile phone prior to the first practice session ahead of the Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024
Horner had a weekend in the spotlight in Bahrain and it looks like that may well continue - AP/Darko Bandic

Rival teams have called on the sport’s rulers to intervene, demanding more transparency over the process by which Red Bull Austria reached its verdict.

Horner and Jos Verstappen are understood to have had a furious row in Horner’s office in the Bahrain paddock on Friday night, although a video of the pair engaged in animated discussion in the Red Bull paddock home in Bahrain, published by Sky Italy on Monday, is not thought to be of that row. It is understood to have been recorded on Saturday night following Verstappen’s win.

But while they may have celebrated that victory together, Verstappen’s comments about Horner the following day has made their falling out excruciatingly public.

Verstappen Snr also denied being the source of the data leak. “Why would I do that?” he said. “Max has a contract with Red Bull until 2028, is performing great and feels at home here. I have no interest in that at all.”

Either way Verstappen Snr will not attend this week’s race in Jeddah. Nor will Horner’s wife Geri or Red Bull’s majority shareholder Chalerm Yoovidhya, both of whom were present in Bahrain to lend their support to Red Bull’s beleaguered team principal.

Oliver Mintzlaff, Red Bull’s chief executive of corporate projects, who has oversight of F1, is expected to attend the race.

Meanwhile, Horner staged a face-to-face meeting with Max Verstappen’s representative in Dubai on Monday in a bid to iron out the escalating tensions at Red Bull. It is understood that neither Jos or his son, Max, were present, with Verstappen’s manager Raymond Vermeulen acting on the Dutch driver’s behalf.

A source said the talks “went well”. Senior Red Bull figures were also said to be present.

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.