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Formula 1

Wolff and Brown demand 'more transparency' on Horner investigation

by Josh Suttill
4 min read

Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff and McLaren F1 chief Zak Brown have both called for greater transparency in regards to Red Bull's investigation into Christian Horner.

Red Bull team principal Horner was cleared by Red Bull's parent company following an external investigation into allegations about his conduct.

That decision was announced via a brief Red Bull GmbH statement that said an unspecified "grievance" had been "dismissed". It said the report was "confidential and contains the private information of the parties and third parties who assisted in the investigation, and therefore we will not be commenting further out of respect for all concerned".

Christian Horner, Red Bull, F1

But two of Horner's rival team bosses made it clear they were unimpressed by concise nature of Red Bull's statement, when asked about it in the official FIA Thursday press conference at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Asked simply for their reaction to Red Bull's statement, Wolff said "I just read the statement, which was pretty basic I would say.

"My personal opinion is that we can't really look behind the curtain, at the end of the day there is a lady in an organisation that has spoken to HR and said there is an issue. It was investigated and yesterday the sport has received the message that 'it's all fine'. 'We've looked at it'.

"I believe that as a global sport, it needs more transparency, and I wonder what the sport's position is.

"We're competitors and we're a team and we can have our own personal opinions or not. But it's more like a general reaction or action that we as a sport need to assess what is right in that situation, and what is wrong."

Brown called on the FIA and Formula 1 to review the investigation to prevent the speculation from continuing.

Toto Wolff, Zak Brown and Fred Vasseur, F1

"I read the statement - I think from what I've seen there continues to be a lot of rumours, speculation and questions," Brown said.

"I think the sanctioning body [the FIA] has a responsibility and authority to our sport and the fans. All of us in Formula 1 are ambassadors for the sport, on and off the track, like you see in other sports.

"They need to make sure things have been fully transparent with them. And I don't know what those conversations are - and it needs to be thorough and fully transparent, that they come to the same conclusion that has been given by Red Bull and that they agree with the outcome.

"That's what needed by those who run the sport, to be able to draw a line under it. And until then there will continue to be some level of speculation by people and I don't think that's healthy for the sport."

Wolff and Brown were then asked to clarify whether they were calling for more pressure to be applied on Red Bull's parent company to release more details.

"I just think as a sport we cannot afford to leave things in the vague and the opaque on critical topics like this," Wolff replied.

Toto Wolff, Mercedes, F1

"This is going to catch us out because eventually - we're in a super transparent world - things are going to happen and we have the duty- the organisation has the duty to say 'well, we've looked at it and it's OK'.

"Then we can move on because it's sometimes very short-sighted to try and suppress it. Not saying this [a suppression] has happened - we're standing from the outside. Just looking at statements or press releases or timeline, it just seems it's a bit... not as modern as things go in the real world out there.

"Maybe in Formula 1 we're just in a little bubble and think that's OK."

Brown said it's down to the "organiser and owners of Formula 1" to ensure everyone involved in racing teams is "operating in a manner in which we all live by".

He believes it's up to the FIA "to ultimately decide and ask what they feel gives them the level of transparency they need to ultimately come to their conclusion".

The FIA and Formula 1 are yet to officially comment on the outcome of the investigation. Before the outcome was known, the FIA said it would "reserve detailed comments until the investigation concludes" while Formula 1's commercial rights holder called for a prompt conclusion.

When asked if McLaren is robust enough to deal with a similar situation, Brown replied: "I'm very confident at McLaren. Like most companies, we've had issues that we've had to deal with and we deal with them in a very transparent, fair and swift manner.

"That's all I can say on behalf of McLaren - yes, we're well-equipped. I actually have my head of HR here this weekend, he and his team are an important part of our racing team. Not just for these types of reasons, that's not why he's here but really for the mental health and well-being [of the team]."

Christian Horner, Red Bull, F1

On Thursday morning in Bahrain, Horner was asked for his view of the investigation verdict.

"I’m pleased that the process is over," Horner told Sky Sports F1.

"I obviously can’t comment about it but here very much to focus now on the grand prix and the season ahead and trying to defend both of our titles."

When asked whether there was still unity within Red Bull, he insisted "within the team it’s never been stronger".

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