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Formula 1

Verstappen's 'Horner vs Jos' intervention sends a message

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
3 min read

Formula 1 championship leader Max Verstappen says the latest public dispute between his father Jos Verstappen and his Red Bull team boss Christian Horner at the Austrian Grand Prix is "not nice" and was "avoidable".

But while that part of his reaction to the disagreement was predictable, the rest of his answer strongly suggests he does not view the two sides as equally responsible for what he clearly perceives as a needless distraction.

Verstappen Sr accused Horner in the Dutch media of having tried to get him removed from a "legends parade" demonstration held by Red Bull as part of the Austrian GP festivities at its home track.

Christian Horner

Horner denied exercising a "veto or anything like that" when asked about it in the Friday press conference, but - with Verstappen Sr having withdrawn of his own accord  - punctuated his media appearances with several answers that could only be construed as digs towards his star driver’s father.

This included the assertion that "the legends will be in action later" - with an "anyway" perhaps omitted - and the suggestion that if rival Mercedes is so desperate to sign a Verstappen, Jos might be the one available.

Verstappen Jr was never going to take kindly to something like this playing out in the backdrop.

And when asked about it in the aftermath of his win in the Austrian GP sprint, he said: "Naturally, of course, it's not nice. Not for myself, not for my dad, not for Christian, not for the team.

"Of course, you don't want these things to happen.

Jos Verstappen

"I think my dad has been quite clear about the reason behind it, and of course, I can understand his opinion on that because at the end of the day, he gets asked to drive the car, finds out that he's not wanted to drive the car… well, my dad actually, he doesn't care about driving the car but he got asked, 'please, do it for the fans, Dutch fans, blah-blah-blah, Red Bull, we have a great relationship with, home track…’. So, I understand.

"On the other hand, I'm here, of course, to focus on the performance side of things, so I want a good relationship with everyone.

"But of course, this scenario could have been avoided."

The fact Max said he "can understand" Jos's position - and agrees with Jos's belief that he was "not wanted to drive the car" is notable.

But it also fits into a wider pattern of Max’s irritation over the off-track tensions that have dominated much of Red Bull's season.

Max Verstappen

He has largely maintained public neutrality in any perceived Red Bull conflicts, albeit he notably intervened to put his foot down when there was talk of Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko being moved aside.

Marko, equally notably, himself used an in-weekend appearance on the Red Bull-run Servus TV to call for full focus on on-track matters in light of the McLaren challenge.

This is a viewpoint Verstappen Jr himself is likely to share, too, given his tone pre-weekend emphasised that he saw McLaren as a serious threat.

He described the MCL60 as "very solid" and "good everywhere", particularly on tyre life relative to Red Bull, and said of the RB20 that he wanted to see "a little bit more pace" after being "too slow" in the Spanish Grand Prix - despite having won it.

Red Bull has looked slightly stronger at the Red Bull Ring, but its lead driver's overall view will not have been transformed by a sprint in which he had to fight off a serious challenge from Lando Norris and required an audacious repass to seal the win.

This same weekend, Verstappen also affirmed to the media he would be staying at Red Bull in 2025. Even if that's to be taken as gospel - and some in the F1 paddock clearly don't - it is not thought that it will be his last chance to seek alternative employment in the coming years should he so desire, even within the timeframe of his current contract.

Red Bull would therefore be wise to ensure its public messaging - whether it be on matters like this strange demo run spat or bigger things - is aligned with Max Verstappen's wishes.

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