Formula 1: Image crash averted: Horner acquitted before the start

Christian Horner is acquitted of allegations of inappropriate behavior towards an employee. Is there peace at Red Bull now? The competition fears the next Verstappen show.

Less than 24 hours before the first training kilometers of the new season, the matter that had been simmering for weeks surrounding Red Bull’s world champion Christian Horner was clarified and ended. The longest-serving team boss in Formula 1 remains in office. After the investigation by an independent lawyer, parent company Red Bull said on Wednesday: “Red Bull can confirm that the complaint has been dismissed. The complaining party has the right to appeal.”

An employee had accused Horner of inappropriate behavior; the 50-year-old Briton had denied these allegations since they became known. “Red Bull is confident that the investigation was fair, thorough and unbiased,” the statement continued. Details were not known or given. “The investigation report is confidential and contains private information from the parties and third parties who participated in the investigation. Out of respect for everyone involved, Red Bull will not comment further.”

Hamilton: “Important moment for the sport”

Formula 1 is thus avoiding a serious image crash immediately before the start of the record season with 24 races. She has already taken damage. Record world champion Lewis Hamilton from Mercedes emphasized that the matter hangs over sport at the official drivers’ press conference a few hours before the acquittal was announced: “It is an important moment for sport to show that we stand by our values.”

Even if, according to his own statement, the matter does not bother him, Verstappen also hoped for a quick clarification, he said at the Pk. It is not known whether he was already informed about the outcome of the investigation, which was confirmed on February 5th along with the allegations. “It’s not my case, we as a team have to trust the process but we also have to be patient,” he said at the press conference.

Media had reported that Horner was interviewed for several hours on February 9th. He then served in his office at the presentation of the new RB20 in mid-February as well as during the test drives at the Bahrain International Circuit last week.

There had been wild speculation about his journey to the opening race, which takes place on Saturday (4 p.m. CET/RTL and Sky) due to the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan. The announcement from the group, which according to Sky Sports UK had received a 100-page investigation report, ended all suspicions.

250,000 dollars for the Verstappen conqueror

It remains to be seen to what extent the issue will continue to flare up in the desert of Sakhir. In any case, nothing will change for Verstappen in his attempt to win his fourth title in a row. The biggest doubts that he could do it again this time after 19 wins in 22 races last season are not necessarily in the paddock.

“I estimate 19 drivers now think that they won’t become world champion,” emphasized two-time champion Fernando Alonso: “If you’ve seen Max and the Red Bull in action, it seems like there’s less of a chance for everyone else in this one Win a race every year.”

The head of the all-electric Formula E racing series even wants to give $250,000 (around 232,000 euros) to charity at the end of this year to whoever beats Verstappen. “Unless he gets injured or something crazy happens, he has a 99 percent chance of winning the trophy,” predicted Jeff Dodds.

Hamilton’s Mercedes finale: “Most gigantic of all shocks”

So everyone against Verstappen? There will be a little more clarity about the balance of power after the first training rounds this Thursday. Whoever is at the top on a lap will be shown in the qualification on Friday. And who built the fastest car over the long distance – at least for the circuit in Bahrain – on Saturday.

There are 24 races in total this year, more than ever since the World Cup began in 1950. Formula 1 will also return to China after five years, Germany will be left out.

And Formula 1 and its fans will witness Lewis Hamilton’s final year in the Mercedes: the seven-time champion from England will wear Ferrari’s red racing overalls from 2025. A constellation that could have something special. “Earthquake” (“Le Monde”), “the most gigantic of all shocks” (“The Independent”) or “signature of the century” (“Mundo deportivo”) – there was no shortage of superlatives when the sensational change was confirmed. Hamilton couldn’t resist the lure of the Ferrari myth, lots and lots of money and the prospect of winning that much-desired eighth title, with which he would overtake former Ferrari star Michael Schumacher, in a Scuderia car of all things.

Based on first impressions, it is at least not very likely that the triumph will happen this year in the silver-black Mercedes. Even if Hamilton, who turned 39 in January, emphasized: “I feel more motivated and focused than ever before.” And also stated: “I never thought there would be a point in my life where I would be as hungry as I am now.”


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