F1 insiders doubt Horner will survive Red Bull scandal

Wed, 7 February 2024, 09:00

Feb.7 (GMM) Former F1 driver Giedo van der Garde doubts Red Bull team boss Christian Horner will survive his current “inappropriate behaviour” scandal.

Top Austrian specialist source motorsport-magazin.com agrees that the 50-year-old long-time team principal’s days at Red Bull now appear numbered, having completely lost the support of the Austrian parent company.

The energy drink company has appointed an independent lawyer to investigate the Milton-Keynes based female staff member’s accusations, which according to some sources are not of a sexual nature but more about Horner’s supposed aggressive and controlling management style.

James Vowles, the team boss at Williams who is close to former Mercedes colleague Toto Wolff, appeared to hint at the nature of the complaint this week.

“I think it (the accusation) means we all have to look each other in the mirror and make sure we are posing the right questions internally and acting in a way that we can only be proud of, not today but in the next ten years,” he said.

D-day for Horner, according to the London Times, appears to be Friday, when the independent lawyer travels to the UK for a crunch meeting. The Sun newspaper says both Horner and the complainant are still at work in Milton-Keynes.

Some think the entire scandal is related to Horner’s earlier power struggle with Dr Helmut Marko, with Max Verstappen at the time having publicly supported the 80-year-old top Red Bull consultant.

De Telegraaf journalist Erik van Haren thinks that same power struggle is now coming to a “climax”, with Horner and Marko “becoming like water and fire”.

It is even rumoured that Adrian Newey could be pulled into the saga, as he is traditionally more aligned with Horner than Marko – perhaps even contractually.

Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport, meanwhile, thinks the man most likely to replace Horner if he is ousted is long-time Red Bull team manager Jonathan Wheatley.

The true test of whether Horner has survived the crisis will be if Horner takes his usual high-profile place at the launch of the 2024 car next Thursday.

“No,” said van der Garde when asked if he thinks Horner will be at the launch.

“Horner is being checked out internally by Red Bull,” he told the DRS De Race Show podcast. “Believe me, when that presentation comes next week, Horner will definitely not be there.”

Motorsport-magazin.com journalist Christian Menath, however, says one possibility is that even if Horner has lost the backing of Red Bull in Austria, the company’s 51 percent Thai co-owner is a traditional supporter of Horner’s reign.

“No one is irreplaceable,” said Louis Dekker, a correspondent for NOS – the biggest Dutch news organisation. “But it’s bad news for the season anyway.

“Once a team starts leaking like this, you know there is internal strife. And when they notice in Austria and Thailand that Horner is damaging the brand, he will simply be out. That has nothing to do with whether there are two camps or not,” he said.

Dekker backed Wheatley to do a good job if promoted into Horner’s shoes.

“He is a key to all of Verstappen’s victories and is sometimes jokingly called the 2021 world champion by insiders,” he said. “This is because he put pressure on the inexperienced race director for months so that decisions went in their favour.”

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