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FIA will not “jump the gun” with Horner probe, despite situation “damaging the sport”

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has ruled out any immediate plans to investigate allegations surrounding Christian Horner, despite admitting that the ongoing controversy is “damaging” Formula 1.

Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Horner has been at the centre of a probe by the Red Bull energy drinks company over claims of inappropriate behaviour made against him by a female employee.

Following an eight-week-long investigation by an independent barrister, it was announced on Wednesday night that the complaints against him had been dismissed as there was no evidence of any wrongdoing.

However, matters took a twist over the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend when anonymous emails were sent to senior F1 personnel, including team bosses, the FIA and FOM chiefs, and media, revealing an alleged dossier of documents at the centre of the matter.

Elements of those documents, the veracity of which has not been confirmed by Red Bull, have subsequently leaked out and grabbed headlines around the world.

There is understood to be some concern within both F1 management and the FIA about the global focus on the Horner developments overshadowing the start of the grand prix season.

These worries have been heightened by the fact that the anonymous leaks point to there being parties focused on embarrassing Horner to force him to step down – which is a campaign that could last weeks.

Horner met with F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali and Ben Sulayem ahead of qualifying in Bahrain on Friday, where the trio are understood to have discussed the situation and what happens next.

Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing, Mohammed bin Sulayem, President, FIA, talk in the pit lane

Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing, Mohammed bin Sulayem, President, FIA, talk in the pit lane

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

While there has been no comment from any of the parties about the outcome of that get-together, one scenario that appears to have been ruled out is for the FIA to independently get involved to better understand the situation.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Ben Sulayem felt that it would be wrong of the FIA to “jump the gun” and act on its own, but clarified that it would “look into any complaint that comes through our compliance officer”.

However, despite holding fire on getting a better understanding of what has really happened behind the scenes at Red Bull, Ben Sulayem is in no doubt that it is not a positive thing for F1 right now.

“It’s damaging the sport,” he added. “This is damaging on a human level.

“It’s the beginning of the season. F1 is becoming so popular. We just need to enjoy the beginning of the season. Look at the competition. Why do we overshadow it with negativity?”

Red Bull has offered no transparency over the findings of its investigation into Horner, nor explained why it reached its conclusion that complaints against him had been dismissed.

This has prompted suspicions that the drinks company is attempting to brush things under the carpet.

Zak Brown, CEO, McLaren Racing

Zak Brown, CEO, McLaren Racing

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Rival team bosses have expressed their unease over how things have been handled, as they think it is not good for F1 that there is not proper clarity on the situation.

Speaking at the Bahrain GP, McLaren CEO Zak Brown said: “I've read this statement. I think, from what I've seen, there continues to be a lot of rumours, speculation, and questions.

"I think the sanctioning body has a responsibility and authority to our sport, to our fans, and I think to all of us in Formula 1… I think they need to make sure that things have been fully transparent with them."

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