Verstappen admits Red Bull locked in ‘power struggle’

Tue, 5 March 2024, 08:00

Mar.5 (GMM) Jos Verstappen has admitted that the Christian Horner scandal is also a “power struggle” involving Red Bull’s Austrian and Thai shareholding factions.

As Formula 1 heads to Saudi Arabia for round two of the 2024 world championship, the Horner saga rolls on – and it’s only getting worse not just for the embattled boss but also the entire and otherwise-dominant Red Bull team.

“The team can put up with it at the moment, but it’s still in everyone’s minds,” former Haas boss Gunther Steiner told Bild newspaper. “So it has to end soon.

“But when I read what Jos Verstappen is saying, it’s clear it will stay with us for a while. But the soap opera must end.”

Verstappen, who is championship leader Max Verstappen’s father, hinted in Bahrain that although Horner was cleared by an internal investigation, it cannot even be ruled out that Max will leave the team over the crisis.

Max Verstappen, 26, might even be allowed to leave – potentially to switch to Mercedes – under the terms of his 2028 contract, given that his deal is tied to the ongoing involvement at Red Bull of Dr Helmut Marko.

Marko has now Speed Week that losing Verstappen could be impossible for Red Bull to immediately recover from.

“Some people think that Red Bull Racing is so well positioned that they can replace anyone,” he said. “Wrong, you can’t replace Max that easily.”

As for the Horner situation, Marko told Auto Bild: “The internal investigations have been completed. I won’t say anything more about that.”

As for the Verstappen-Mercedes rumours, he added: “As far as I’m concerned, I won’t stand in Max’s way.”

If Verstappen and Marko do leave, it is believed designer Adrian Newey may follow them out of the door. Jos Verstappen insists the chances of an exodus at Red Bull are real, and would leave Horner stranded alone – perhaps also without the involvement of Ford for the 2026 engine project.

“There is no piece of paper that gets between us,” Jos, who will not be in Jeddah this weekend as he is taking part in a rally, told the Swiss newspaper Blick.

“We will act and do what suits Max best, even if we are of course fully behind the parent company in Austria in the power struggle.”

It is rumoured that the entire Horner scandal was triggered not by revelations of his alleged affair with a female staff member, but by behind-the-scenes manoeuvring to seize control of Red Bull Racing by teaming up with the company’s 51 percent Thai shareholder and British investors.

The coup may have spectacularly failed.

F1 legend Gerhard Berger commented on Monday: “As of now, Horner stays, Helmut Marko and Adrian Newey quit, and Max goes to Mercedes.”

Respected journalist Bianca Garloff noted: “This is about more than Formula 1 – the future of the whole of Red Bull is currently at stake.”

Horner is said to have met on Monday for crisis talks with Max Verstappen’s manager, Raymond Vermeulen.

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