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Wolff: F1 chiefs must “set the compass right” over Horner controversy

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says Formula 1 chiefs, not teams, hold the responsibility to “set the compass right” over the ongoing controversy surrounding Red Bull’s Christian Horner.

Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing

Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

F1’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix weekend was overshadowed by the situation involving Horner, who was investigated by Red Bull’s energy drinks company in the wake of allegations made against him by a female employee.

Following an eight-week investigation by an independent lawyer, the complaints were dismissed and Horner was cleared of wrongdoing.

But that has not proved to be the end of the matter. On Thursday in Bahrain, an anonymous source sent a dossier of alleged evidence to senior FIA and F1 personnel, including team principals and the media.

Then, just hours after Red Bull delivered a 1-2 in the race, Jos Verstappen launched a broadside against Horner stating that the world champion squad risks “being torn apart” if Horner stays.

The way that the Horner controversy has taken the focus away from the start of the new season has alarmed senior figures, and FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has publicly admitted that it is “damaging” for F1.

However, despite suggestions that the Horner situation was something that the FIA needed to investigate to ensure transparency and integrity, Ben Sulayem suggested the governing body could not do anything unless there was a formal complaint.

But this is a stance that Wolff feels is not necessarily correct, as he believes that the issues at stake here are so important that it would be wrong for Red Bull’s competitors to be forced to make a stand – because that would devalue the importance of what is at play.

Speaking in Bahrain, Wolff said: “I think the moment I start to continue to question how this has been handled, I'm probably not doing any good to the whole issue.

Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing, Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes AMG

Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing, Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes AMG

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“Then it could be seen that this is just about a power fight within F1. That's why I think it's not in the teams' hands.

“It's so much a bigger topic, that I don't want to diminish the whole situation by making it seem like the Mercedes or McLaren guy talks about the Red Bull guys.

“Let's see where it goes in the next days. I would very much hope that the governing body, the sanctioning body and the commercial rights holder set the compass right.”

While FIA sources have indicated that its reluctance to act unilaterally is because it views the matter entirely as an internal problem for Red Bull, Wolff does not see it that way.

He feels that how F1 as a whole responds to allegations of inappropriate behaviour provides a marker for its standing in the wider world.

“I think the handling of the situation is very critical for F1,” he said.

“It's not in the hands of competitors to have any action, and we should look at ourselves in terms of what is it we can do in order to optimise on all of these topics: equality and diversity. That's what we're doing.

“I'm very proud that we are at the forefront of that. To judge about another person or another team, it's the governing body that needs to do that.

“They have it in their hand. And this is probably where we need to look at.”

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