Horner faces sack, as F1 scandal heat rises again

Mon, 11 March 2024, 09:00

Mar.11 (GMM) Just as the Red Bull power struggle looked set to switch from boil to simmer, the heat has been turned back up – this time on Christian Horner yet again.

In Saudi Arabia, Dr Helmut Marko survived what appeared to be Horner and the Thai shareholder’s revenge – Marko’s rumoured imminent suspension.

“We had a discussion and decided that there are rumours but they have no legal basis,” Marko, 80 and a trained lawyer, revealed. “I will not be suspended because it had no legal basis.”

Horner departed Jeddah perhaps believing the worst of the crisis endangering his Formula 1 career was over – but now, widespread reports and multiple sources suggest he might actually be sacked before Melbourne.

It comes amid rumours Ferrari might be making moves to poach Adrian Newey and Pierre Wache, and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff’s offer to accommodate not only Max Verstappen, but also his mentor Marko.

“That’s very nice of him,” Marko smiled, “but I’m declining the offer right now.”

As for the Newey-to-Ferrari rumour, he added: “I hope this doesn’t happen.”

It is also now rumoured that the female Red Bull employee who accused Horner of inappropriate behaviour may be preparing to release more information, make a public statement, appeal the internal Red Bull investigation, or launch civil legal action – or all of the above.

Also telling is that Marko had intended to fly back to Europe with Horner, but instead boarded the private flight with Verstappen instead, according to De Telegraaf.

“I hope it will all be over as soon as possible,” Marko told the Dutch newspaper. “The past few weeks haven’t been the best of times.

“I was already thinking about leaving at the end of last year, but I also think we should think about Dietrich (Mateschitz’s) legacy, what his ideas were and where they took us. We owe that to him,” the Austrian added.

It is believed Horner’s biggest ally in the scandal to date – Red Bull’s 51 percent Thai co-owner Chalerm Yoovidhya – may have been convinced to switch his support to the Austrian camp.

That may have been prompted by Horner’s insistence that even Verstappen’s threats to quit would not weaken his resolve. “What happens if Max goes? This is discussed internally,” Marko said.

“But I’m sure doors would open for him everywhere.”

Racing driver Ho-Pin Tung told nu.nl: “I dare say that Max’s voice is more powerful than anyone else’s within Red Bull. And he spoke out very clearly with a clear position.

“He is not only a leader in the car, but also outside the car and within the team. It reminds me of Michael Schumacher in his heyday.”

Also rumoured is that an American left-wing pressure group may have been about to launch a Red Bull drinks boycott over Horner’s continued involvement, even though the F1 team denies that anything new is rumbling behind the scenes.

“As Christian already said, he is grateful for the full support of the shareholders, and it will stay that way,” a spokesman told Bild newspaper.

Former F1 driver Alex Wurz, however, surmised to ORF: “It’s like the movie Highlander – there can only be one left standing at the end of the season. Or maybe earlier.”

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