April 23, 2024

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What's next for Red Bull after F1 chief Horner's investigation becomes all clear

What's next for Red Bull after F1 chief Horner's investigation becomes all clear

While the cap issue in 2022 has been a difficult time for the team, it has not brought with it the personal turmoil and conquest that has been common over the past few weeks.

The launch of an investigation into unspecified allegations made against him by a female employee thrust Horner into the center of a media frenzy as he struggled to save his Grand Prix career and future.

While Horner remained in his position – attending the RB20 launch earlier this month and in the pits during pre-season testing last week – it was clear from his body language that things had taken an emotional toll on him.

Far from being the overly confident character often prancing around the ring, Horner looked tired and exhausted as he found himself the subject of an investigation that began more than a month ago.

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While Red Bull's statement released on Wednesday night will allow Horner to sleep easier as the focus shifts to winning the opening race of the Formula 1 season in Bahrain, questions that remain about what has happened in recent weeks abound.

Rumors have swirled about exactly what Horner is alleged to have done. There were several different versions told by the characters of the pasture – with many of the stories contradicting each other.

Sources have strongly rejected some of the more extreme suggestions that have appeared in several publications — and lawyers may have a field day over some of the reporting that happened now that Horner has been acquitted.

Given the limitations involved in such an internal investigation, there remains little clarity about what was and was not included – and the truth may never come out.

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Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing

Photography: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport pictures

As Red Bull's statement said on Wednesday: “The investigation report is confidential and contains proprietary information of the parties and third parties that assisted in the investigation, and therefore we will not be commenting further out of respect for everyone involved. Red Bull will continue to strive to meet the highest workplace standards.”

It remains to be seen whether Horner will provide further details, as he is unlikely to say much about the situation after his entry to the Bahrain Circuit on Thursday.

It is understood that Red Bull's parent company is still keen to focus on the transition to follow-up matters and not any ongoing repercussions from recent events.

But perhaps most interesting of all is how revealing the situation is at the hands of those who want to use the situation to take down Horner.

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The behavior of other teams in investigating Red Bull in recent weeks was widely seen as normal behavior in the world of Formula One.

As Max Verstappen said: “This is a constant tactic in Formula 1, a tactic that is always used. Not only does this apply to this story, this is always the case and it is typical for Formula 1. This is 100 percent typical of Formula 1.”

There also remains a lot of ambiguity about the role the various elements of Red Bull's global operation have or have not played in the matter – from the Thai majority owners, the Austrian parent company, Helmut Marko and Verstappen.

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Were there internal disagreements about the direction things should take? Were some trying to impose the matter and bring about change at the top? Were there personal vendettas? Only those in its midst know for sure. Just as the specific details of the complaint are unclear, it is also difficult to determine what is truth and what is gossip from an incredibly complex situation.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Photography: Eric Junius

However, it is common knowledge in politics that enemies often show their hand when a leader appears weak – but they may find their positions incredibly vulnerable when events turn and there is no change at the top.

Another key aspect is Horner's position within the Red Bull Formula 1 team as he progresses.

Although the situation of the past few weeks had made life difficult for him in some ways, the mere prospect of those working within the organization having to contemplate a future without him served as food for thought on his true impact, and the fact that it would be difficult to contemplate that. Imagine anyone else running the team now.

While developments such as Ford's letter to Red Bull urging her to end the uncertainty of the situation were seen by some as possibly being very unhappy, her position was actually one shared by Horner. He wanted nothing more than to end the investigation so he could move on.

It is understood behind closed doors that Horner has received widespread private support from team partners and employees, which was evident in the show of support he received during a press conference at the factory this week.

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As Horner said at the launch of the RB20: “We are very united. We have always had tremendous support from shareholders since Dietrich passed away. The shareholders have been incredibly supportive and you can see the level of investment there is in Powertrains, with the future of Formula 1.”

However, one thing is clear: with Horner's extremely competitive mentality, despite everything he's been through, he won't let this situation dilute his or the team's focus on the task at hand – especially open the door to rivals who were hoping to exploit the problems.

The best way to prove that is with overwhelming control on track at this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix.

Watch: Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix 2024 – What can we expect