until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

Inside Horner's tense and defiant Bahrain media briefing

by Samarth Kanal
4 min read

An eight-person table was never going to be enough room to host a post-race press session outside Red Bull’s Formula 1 hospitality.

More so, given the fact that Red Bull had stormed to a 1-2 finish in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

Even more so given this would be the first time Red Bull team principal Christian Horner addressed the assembled F1 media in such a session since being cleared of allegations of misconduct in an external investigation, and since a subsequent leak of alleged evidence from that investigation via an email sent to a substantial list of F1 figures and media.

Horner holds these sessions after every single race. But this was a very different situation for one.

The atmosphere was tense before he arrived; it verged on fraught when Horner sat down to answer questions. Dictaphones and mobiles were set down as usual but then there was a short, awkward silence.

The first question was fielded: “How do you sum up your weekend, Christian?”

“Well look, we’re here to focus on track, and I think that the start to the season that we've had has been [yielded] an incredible, incredible result by the whole team. Max was dominant and Checo, I thought, drove a very strong race coming through the field from fifth to achieve a 1-2 finish at the first grand prix of the year, achieving maximum points.

“I think it’s a perfect start for us in our 20th season. It's been a long winter and I think all the men and women in Milton Keynes have done an incredible job to produce or design-produce a great car to start the season with.” 

The cork was then let out of the bottle. Questions about the misconduct investigation and the events that followed seemed to keep coming.

Horner faced them confidently and defiantly. 

“Well, obviously, it's not been pleasant, some of the unwanted attention,” replied Horner to one question with a sharp intake of breath.

Asked about his statement-like entrance to the paddock on Saturday afternoon with wife Geri Horner at his side, he replied: “My focus is on racing. What people choose to write is up to them. But my focus is very much [on] coming out of this weekend, is on the next race in seven days’ time in Saudi Arabia.”

The mood changed from tense to fraught immediately after that when Horner was asked why he couldn’t comment on the file drop that was sent to senior F1 figures and journalists in the paddock on Thursday. He interrupted the end of the question in his reply.

“I'm not going to comment. I'm not going to comment on anonymous speculative messages from an unknown source. So they're from an unknown source, which I'm not going to comment on. So, next question.”

The journalist - Andrew Benson, from the BBC - asked again, and once again: “Are they genuine?”.

A Red Bull PR person tersely cut Benson off.

Horner’s tone didn’t really veer away from its usual cadence for the rest of the press session, which lasted under nine minutes, even as he was asked whether he was confident over remaining at Red Bull for the entire season. 

“Absolutely,” he replied. 

“There was a full, lengthy, internal process that was completed by an independent KC [King’s Counsel].

“And the grievance that was raised was dismissed. End of. Move on.

“I've always been entirely confident that I would be here, and my focus is on the season ahead and the races we have ahead.”

He also acknowledged the “support of an incredible family, of an incredible wife, of an incredible team, and everybody within that team.”

After a cluster of questions pertaining to the events of the last week ended with one about the Bahrain GP, Horner replied: “It's wonderful to be answering a racing question, but, you know, it's what we're here to do. It's why we're all here… to go racing.

“And I'm sorry that it wasn't a more entertaining race for you today, but that is the result of the team doing its job and producing an incredible car.”

After the short press session – of which less than half pertained to the misconduct case and its aftermath –  finished, Horner set his chair back under the table and walked away.

Not much about the investigation has been made clear over the last week – apart from Horner’s absolute confidence that he will remain in his role and his confidence in the people immediately around him.

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