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regular-article-logo Sunday, 21 April 2024

Christian Horner row: Verstappen Senior’s outburst raises questions about his son Max’s future

Saturday’s season-opening race at the Gulf kingdom’s Sakhir circuit offered fewer twists and turns, and considerably less drama, than the apparent power play being acted out in the paddock

Reuters Manama Published 05.03.24, 10:48 AM
Max Verstappen with father Jos Verstappen in the paddock prior to practice ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen with father Jos Verstappen in the paddock prior to practice ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix. Getty Images

Jos Verstappen’s call for the sacking of Red Bull Formula One boss Christian Horner has raised questions about his son Max’s future just as the team and their triple world champion celebrate a truly crushing win in Bahrain.

Saturday’s season-opening race at the Gulf kingdom’s Sakhir circuit offered fewer twists and turns, and considerably less drama, than the apparent power play being acted out in the paddock.

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What started with misconduct allegations against Horner by a female employee, that he denied and an independent investigation dismissed, has exposed divisions within the sport’s most dominant team.

The energy drink brand’s majority owner, Thai billionaire Chalerm Yoovidhya, was public in his support of Horner in Bahrain but reports have suggested the Austrian side of the company is less enthusiastic.

Verstappen senior’s comments in the Daily Mail, saying Red Bull would ‘explode’ if Horner stayed, left questions hanging in the air as the circus heads to Saudi Arabia for Saturday’s race in Jeddah.

The Daily Telegraph said Verstappen senior was understood to have told friends his son would leave Red Bull if he had to.

Horner, 50, had insisted in Bahrain that the team was more united than ever.

That line was repeated on Sunday, although Verstappen senior is not officially a member of the team.

The overnight outburst, after a widely reported row between Jos and Horner shortly after Friday’s qualifying, meanwhile accelerated around the world.

“There is tension here while he remains in position. The team is in danger of being torn apart. It can’t go on the way it is. It will explode,” the Dutchman told the Daily Mail.

“He is playing the victim, when he is the one causing the problems.”

The BBC said Jos Verstappen had confirmed he spoke out after a row with Horner. His son was aware of the comments and had not said anything.

Breaking point

The face-off took place a day after an email, purporting to contain evidence submitted to the misconduct probe into Horner, was sent anonymously to journalists and key figures in the sport.

Verstappen senior, who was also on the list of recipients, denied being behind it.

Horner, speaking to reporters after the race, would not comment on the motives behind the email. The question now is whether the tensions, simmering away under the surface for some time, have pushed the team to breaking point and how Max Verstappen, 26, will react.

Horner is the sport’s longest-serving team boss, having brought Red Bull into Formula One in 2005, and enjoys a celebrity lifestyle and starring role in the Netflix ‘Drive to Survive’ docu-series.

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