Subscribe

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Autosport Plus

Discover premium content
Subscribe

Why Red Bull may be its own worst enemy in getting F1 to move on from the Horner saga

In a year of big Formula 1 news that shows no signs of slowing down, there has been one story standing head and shoulders above the rest.

Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing, is surrounded by media

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

The saga surrounding Christian Horner and his future as team principal at Red Bull has dominated the agenda and grabbed front pages around the world.

As the multiple layers of a very complicated story continue to be unwrapped, every time it appears that things are ready to calm down they erupt again.

Perhaps the biggest bombshell came after the Bahrain Grand Prix when Jos Verstappen launched a broadside against Horner in calling for him to go.

“There is tension here while he remains in position,” said the Dutchman.

“The team is in danger of being torn apart. It can't go on the way it is. It will explode. He is playing the victim, when he is the one causing the problems.”

Those remarks, coming on the same weekend that documents were sent around to senior F1 personnel from an anonymous email address, pointed to a conspiracy that was not out of place in a Hollywood movie.

PLUS: What's behind efforts to bring down Red Bull F1 team boss Horner

It is hard to predict where things will go from here. But, from Red Bull’s perspective, the whole affair has been a massive distraction and one which it hopes ends soon so the focus can return to racing.

As Sergio Perez said in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday evening: "Well, I think now this is all behind us. We are, the whole team, a race team at the end of the day, and we are here to race, and to focus and to deliver on track. Our main focus, it's on the racing side, simple as that.”

Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing & Geri Halliwell

Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing & Geri Halliwell

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

On one level, Red Bull is indeed managing to keep the focus in the right place. Within the garage, the impression is that it has successfully isolated itself away from all the paddock politics to stay concentrated on the job in hand.

In the RB20, Red Bull has produced a stunning step forward that has already left rivals reeling – and it did not skip a beat with its performance at the F1 season opener.

As Verstappen said about the frenzy surrounding the team: “I think you could see in Bahrain that it doesn't affect the performance of the team.

“Of course, ideally, as a team, you wouldn't like to have these kinds of moments, but it also shows that I think we are all quite focused on our job. And that is of course to perform on the track.”

But there is no getting away from the fact that the drama surrounding Red Bull – and the intrigue of the incredible plot over Horner’s future – remains box office.

On Wednesday evening, it was standing room only in the table area outside the Red Bull motorhome in the Jeddah paddock as Perez and Verstappen spoke to the media ahead of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. There was only one topic of interest, and neither driver hid behind a bland message that they were here only to talk about the racing.

In comments already widely reported, Verstappen played down (but didn’t totally dismiss) the idea of this being a contract play that could trigger a shock switch to Mercedes.

And while being explicit that he did not want to take sides on things in the wake of his father’s remarks, Verstappen also emphasised that they are a team – and he defended the comments made: “I think from how I know him of course, from when I was already in go-karting, he's always very outspoken. He's not a liar, that's for sure.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Shameem Fahath

It was quite telling though that during the eight minutes and 50 seconds that Verstappen talked, there was not a single question about the RB20 and Red Bull’s dominant start to the year. And therein perhaps lies the biggest hurdle Red Bull faces in getting the attention shifted away from the Horner saga.

With its new car being so far out in front, and making victory seem like a foregone conclusion before a wheel is even turned in anger, the lack of talking points on track inevitably means people focus more on intriguing aspects off it.

As McLaren’s Lando Norris observed, it was not ideal that the main talking point in F1 right now had nothing to do with the racing.

Read Also:

“There is noise,” he said. “It is definitely not I think what we should have as a sport. It should only be about racing and what drivers do between one another when we are at the tracks.

“I don't think the sport should be interrupted by what happens away from the circuit. That's got nothing to do with racing.

“That can be a headline somewhere else, but it shouldn't impact what the chatter is, and I shouldn't be getting asked about what happens in people's private lives.”

There is that famous motor racing saying that when the flag drops the bullshit stops – and it is true to some extent. But in a modern era of the 24-hour news cycle, that has social media thrown into the mix, the racing has to be good enough to drown out any lingering excitement from the bullshit by the time the chequered flag comes out.

If things were spectacular and close right now on track, and there were competitive storylines that captured the attention, then that would do everything in shifting eyeballs off what’s going on behind the scenes at Red Bull.

So there is a certain irony to the fact that the better Red Bull does on track, and the less thrilling it makes the racing, then the more the focus will remain on what is piquing interest right now: which is all that is going on with Horner.

 

Be part of the Autosport community

Join the conversation
Previous article Alpine performance “not acceptable” for works F1 team, admits Famin
Next article Ferrari reintroduces 2023 rear wing for F1 Saudi Arabian GP

Top Comments

There are no comments at the moment. Would you like to write one?

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Autosport Plus

Discover premium content
Subscribe