Red Bull saga with Horner festers on: 'Lawyers threaten lawsuit'

Red Bull saga with Horner festers on: 'Lawyers threaten lawsuit'

5 March - 18:49

Ludo van Denderen

For weeks now, Formula 1 has been gasping for breath even though the season has barely begun. It is not the sporting performance, but the case surrounding Christian Horner that continues to occupy minds. Even on days when no F1 car can be found on a track anywhere in the world at all, new stories about the situation at Red Bull Racing seep in here and there. The Austrian team remains under high stress.

There it was a message: Christian Horner did not attend the birthday party of Jos Verstappen, who celebrated his 52nd birthday in Dubai on Monday. The fact that several other prominent Red Bull Racing figures did attend prompted further speculation. Was Horner absent because Verstappen senior did not want his son Max's team principal there? Was this another indication that Jos Verstappen and Horner have a fractious relationship? In any case, the fact is that Jos Verstappen - like Max, for that matter - was not at Horner's birthday party last year either, so bosom buddies did not seem to be Horner and the Verstappens previously either.

Manager Verstappen spoke to Horner

Still, that there is discontent between Horner and Jos Verstappen, to say the least, is now clear after harsh statements made by the latter in two newspapers. The harsh words led to Raymond Vermeulen, Max Verstappen's manager, sitting down with Horner on Monday to try to take the chill out of the air. GPblog have learned from insiders that the conversation went well, although it should be added that both Verstappens were not present.

The F1 circus has since moved to Saudi Arabia, where the second Grand Prix of the season takes place on Saturday. Once Max Verstappen walks onto the paddock there on Wednesday, the world champion will no doubt have plenty of questions to answer again about Horner as well as his own future. After all, will he stay at Red Bull Racing or has the relationship with Horner become so bad that Verstappen is angling to leave? Mercedes is keeping a close eye on the situation with Verstappen.

Horner in press conference in Saudi Arabia

Probably not until Thursday - when the first practice sessions are run - Horner will report to the paddock. This time, he arrives without his wife Geri, who was flown in to Bahrain last weekend, to show the world that it really is all nice and happy between her and Christian Horner. She has since flown back to the United Kingdom. So the British team principal is on his own and now the question is: how alone exactly?

Do his team (still) fully support him? Is Max Verstappen expressing his open support for Horner - something FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem so insisted on in Bahrain? Or does it all remain uneasy at Red Bull? In any case, another leader does appear on the scene this weekend. Oliver Mitzlaff, Red Bull's managing director in Austria, will travel to Jeddah to watch the Grand Prix. The German will surely do more than that; he will also try to quell the ongoing unrest within the team.

There will certainly be an interesting moment on Friday afternoon, when Christian Horner sits in at Formula 1's official press conference. No doubt Red Bull's PR people are indicating in advance that Horner is not going to answer questions about the investigation and the leak of the Whatsapp messages, journalists are bound to ask anyway. It could just lead to uncomfortable situations.

'Horner threatens legal action'

Struggling Horner is in any case. On Tuesday, for instance, it emerged via the British newspaper The Telegraph that his lawyers have opened the hunt for a British F1 magazine, which published, among other things, the name of the alleged woman who accused Horner. According to Horner's representatives, the story is riddled with inaccuracies and they are threatening legal action against the magazine on his behalf.

So if the words 'will be prosecuted' were ever appropriate, it is with the Red Bull Racing saga now. The Formula 1 world eagerly awaits further.