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Formula 1

Horner's tense sidestep as investigation hangs over Red Bull

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
6 min read

Christian Horner’s presence at Formula 1 pre-season testing, while an investigation takes place into allegations against him, means an awkward and tense situation hangs over his Red Bull team this week.

That was showcased in a brief but uncomfortable exchange on Thursday during Horner’s appearance as Red Bull's representative in a team principal press conference organised by F1 as part of the pre-season test’s official media activity.

Horner continues in his roles as Red Bull Racing CEO and team principal while the investigation ordered by Red Bull’s parent company takes place, was front and centre at Red Bull’s launch, and as expected he is at testing too.

With the process still ongoing and as Horner said he could not comment on the process at last week’s launch, where he emphasised it was “business as normal” at the team, there were only two questions specifically about the matter on Thursday.

Both were met with a sidestep and versions of an ‘I cannot comment on this’ but Horner’s response to two differently framed questions conveyed different tones.

The first question was directed at Horner alongside one to McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown asking him to comment about "how it's been handled, the length of time it's taking, the fact he's still in his role, and what it says about Formula 1's attitude to sexual equality".

The second part to Horner was: “You said it was business as usual at Red Bull, but it's not business as usual when the CEO is accused of inappropriate behaviour, how can people take this investigation seriously when you've not been asked to step aside while it's been in process?"

Brown answered first, calling the allegations “extremely serious” and with reference to the Red Bull investigation stressed that “we hope and assume that will be handled in a very transparent way”, adding that this is creating headlines F1 "doesn't want or need".

Horner's reply to his question was a slightly curt: “As you're well aware, there's a process going on that I form part of, and as I form part of that process, I'm afraid I cannot comment on it.”

His expression and tone, whether it was affected by the wording of the question or the fact he had to sit through Brown’s answer before replying himself, softened for the next question on the matter, which followed immediately.

Question: "A week ago at the launch, you did say that it had been a distraction for you in the build up to the new season, everything that's been going on. Has that continued over this past week? Formula 1's statement did say they'd like it clarified at the earliest possible opportunity, have you been given any timeline for when it may be clarified, so the distraction, if it is a distraction, is no longer there?"

Horner: “Look I'm dreadfully sorry but I really can't comment on the process or timescale.

“I think obviously everybody would like a conclusion as soon as possible but I'm really not at liberty to comment about the process.”


The first senior F1 figure to address the situation publicly was Horner’s old rival Toto Wolff of Mercedes.

He was the only team boss willing to answer the same question as Brown received, just 24 hours earlier, and like Brown eventually did Wolff stressed the need for “transparency and rigour” in Red Bull’s investigation.

“Formula 1 and what the teams do, we stand for inclusion, equality, fairness, diversity,” said Wolff.

“And that's not only about talking about it, it's about living it day-in day-out. This is the standard we're setting ourselves.

“We're a global sport. One of the most important sport platforms in the world. We're role models.

“Having said that, there is a lot of speculation that's been happening over the last weeks. Speculation we've heard of and lots of things that are going on.

“What's important [is a] process with rigour.

“That's something we need to look at, what the outcomes are and what it means for F1 and how we can learn from that because we want to talk about racing cars and we want to talk about the sport rather than these very critical topics that are more [than] just a team's issue.

“It's a phenomenon or it's an issue for all of Formula 1 and in general for every individual who works out there.”

The championship’s main stakeholders – F1/Liberty Media as the commercial rights holder, and the FIA as the governing body – have said precious little.

F1 “noted that Red Bull has instigated an independent investigation into internal allegations at Red Bull Racing.

“We hope that the matter will be clarified at the earliest opportunity, after a fair and thorough process and we will not comment further at this time,” it continued.

This has been interpreted as a hurry-up in some quarters but mainly it reflects a similar desire as what Ford reportedly holds – which is for the issue to be resolved as soon as possible without shortcutting the process.

The FIA issued its own statement shortly after and said even less.

“In relation to the independent investigation currently being undertaken by Red Bull GMbH, the FIA reiterates that until such time as the investigation has concluded and the outcome is known, we will not be commenting further.

“The FIA remains committed to upholding the highest standards of integrity, fairness and inclusivity within the sport.”


Horner has been in the garage and Red Bull hospitality unit throughout the first two days, initially in plain clothing as is normal for senior Red Bull personnel in testing - the likes of Adrian Newey and Helmut Marko have been informally dressed this week too.

And as at the launch, Horner has publicly appeared as Red Bull’s spokesperson too. He was scheduled for, and took part in, Thursday’s aforementioned press conference.

So, there is no sign of Horner relinquishing his Red Bull duties while this is ongoing. This will only extend the awkward conflict between a very public role, a very prominent situation and an inability or unwillingness to discuss it.

Red Bull’s initial statement made it clear it wanted to resolve the matter as soon as was realistically possible without compromising the process.

It is a complicated and long-running issue that – going back to before the formal investigation started and the allegations first emerged - has now spanned several weeks.

A significant amount of time has been devoted to speaking to Horner and the person who has made the allegations.

Realistically, it was not expected to be resolved before the opening race of the season in Bahrain.

But it has been suggested that, due to so much speculation and misinformation being shared, it could be finalised next week as the situation risks running out of control.

Contrary to an incorrect claim that spread across social media on Wednesday, a decision has not already been made.

It was said that Viaplay Finland’s coverage of testing included a declaration that Red Bull had opted to sack Horner and this would be formally announced next week.

The Race understands that some speculation about Horner was addressed on the broadcast but no such firm declaration was made – instead what was said was misinterpreted/mistranslated.

Viaplay even moved to clarify that once it became aware of what spread on social media.


Red Bull Racing has directed all inquiries into the matter to the parent company in Austria. The team itself is staying quiet for now.

But one of its biggest partners – 2026 engine associate Ford – has addressed the matter.

“As a family company, and a company that holds itself to very high standards of behaviour and integrity, we do expect the same from our partners,” Ford Performance director Mark Rushbrook said.

“Red Bull is taking the situation very seriously. And of course, they’re worried about their brand, as well.

“And that’s why they’ve got an independent investigation and until we see what truth comes out of that, it’s too early for us to comment on it all.”

This came around the same time as a report from the Financial Times claiming Ford had written to Red Bull urging it to be transparent and thorough with its investigation and resolve it as quickly as realistically possible.

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