FOM tells Red Bull to clarify Horner situation at “earliest opportunity”

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Formula One Management, F1’s commercial rights holders, say that they hope the independent investigation into Christian Horner‘s conduct at Red Bull will be “clarified at the earliest opportunity.”

The team principal of the Formula 1 world championship winning team is currently subject of an investigation triggered by the team’s parent company, Red Bull Austria.

The inquiry, carried out by an independent barrister, follows Red Bull receiving a complaint from a member of staff at the team about Horner’s behaviour. Horner has denied any allegations of wrongdoing.

News that Horner was the subject of an investigation broke last week, with a Red Bull spokesperson confirming to RaceFans in a statement that it had reacted in response to a complaint.

“After being made aware of certain recent allegations, the company launched an independent investigation. This process, which is already underway, is being carried out by an external specialist barrister,” the statement said.

“The company takes these matters extremely seriously and the investigation will be completed as soon as practically possible. It would not be appropriate to comment further at this time.”

Horner has not been suspended following the initiation of the investigation and was present at the launch of the team’s RB20 at their Milton Keynes factory earlier this week. Speaking to media including RaceFans at the launch, Horner stated that it was “business as normal” for him.

The team have not offered a timeline for when the investigation is likely to be concluded. Horner may still be the subject of investigation as his team heads to Bahrain next week to participate in the sole pre-season test ahead of the opening grand prix of the season in just under two weeks’ time.

In a statement to RaceFans, FOM called for a timely conclusion to the independent investigation launched by Red Bull.

“We have noted Red Bull has instigated an independent investigation into internal allegations at Red Bull Racing,” read the statement.

“We hope the matter will be clarified at the earliest opportunity, after a fair and thorough process. We will not comment further at this time.”

Horner has been team principal of Red Bull since the team took over the former Jaguar team at the end of 2004. In that time, Red Bull have won seven world drivers’ championships with Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen and six constructors’ titles.

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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38 comments on “FOM tells Red Bull to clarify Horner situation at “earliest opportunity””

  1. wasn’t the wording « independent investigation » enough

    1. Not really, knowing how many many such ‘independent investigations’, they’re often not particularly independent and tend to drag on months/years. I’m fine with FOM putting pressure on Red Bull to sort out this mess. It can’t be that difficult to determine the events. If there is solid evidence of Horner acting unprofessionally or worse and RBR have been shown to be faffing around trying to make the issue just go away rather than act decisively, then it will reflect extremely badly on them and Formula 1.

      1. (apologies, the first sentence came out mangled but it should be intelligible)

      2. I don’t see how this could reflect badly on Formula 1 as a whole… It’s completely out of their wheelhouse.

        If anything it’s more of a matter for the FIA, to investigate like they did Stroll’s conduct. But given the Wolff fiasco just recently you can imagine how wary they’d be of launching their own investigation.

        Especially the Wolff’s untenable argument that an investigation constitutes defamation…

        1. Neither FOM nor FIA want this story dominating F1 headlines at the start of the season obviously. It’s already drowned out the pre-season Hamilton to Ferrari vibe. Good point about it being a FIA responsibility but FIA being wary of acting after the Wolff saga. But whatever you or I think what it says about Formula 1 as a whole, the media will think different and, depending on how Red Bull, one of the big three teams, handle the situation, and what all the parties decide to make public or not, it good generate a lot of negative publicity that will threaten to spill over (the media asking: is this F1 culture in general? etc.)

          1. All completely fair points, from anon below too… It’s probably a bigger deal for F1 indeed than I was making it out to be

        2. Tristan, the publication that made the allegations against the Wolff’s received a permanent ban on attending any FIA events back in 2003 on the grounds of constant malicious harassment of people working in F1.

          That publication had built up a sizeable reputation for faking stories, often in a way that was intended to seriously damage the reputation of the person they wrote about – to give just a few examples, they have been found guilty of faking stories about FIA personnel being corrupt, faking a story about a former director of Jaguar being engaged in bribery (the judge in that case making a summary judgement when, after being asked to submit their evidence, the magazine admitted that it had no evidence and did not even try to submit a defence against the charge of faking the article) and falsely claimed that a particular driver manager was a crime boss that was running prostitution rackets and drug running in Germany.

          It’s why many felt that, when the FIA has decreed that publication was so malicious that it banned it from the sport, and has seen multiple members of their own staff successfully sue that publication for making up stories about them, it was extremely strange that the FIA should have suddenly announced an investigation based on such a disreputable source.

          In the case of Horner and your opinion questioning whether this really “could reflect badly on Formula 1 as a whole” – given he is running one of the largest and highest profile teams in the sport, Horner is also reasonably heavily involved in the promotion of the sport and thus his reputation is partially entangled in that of the sport as a whole. If the outcome of the case were to be negative for Horner, it’s likely to cast a fairly sizeable shadow over the wider sport given his reasonably close association with the recent promotion of the sport.

          As for the question of the FIA taking any action in the Horner investigation – right now, the FIA is unusually quiet and has been stonewalling all queries about the case. There’s some questions over whether it’s a case of reserved judgement, or something of a case of the FIA hoping that somebody else can make an awkward case go away.

          1. Solid comment there anon.

            I do think that for the FIA it makes sense to just be watching what is happening since RB is already doing their investigation, since doing one as well in parallel would only make matters worse and give more potential for a mess.

        3. If Toto’s argument is untenable why should they be at all wary?

        4. Apologies. I pressed the wrong button – ‘report comment’ – rather than ‘reply’.

          My reply is that FOM and the teams are increasingly seen as one circus with different acts and the ringmaster is FOM. This is a consequence of increasingly embracing the ‘franchise’ model.

          They all follow FIA rules about racing but the commercial and image making stuff is FOM and a team principal breaching modern mores is a particular problem in the US – where the ownership is – but also in the UK – where the team are based – and elsewhere

      3. They aren’t putting any pressure on Red Bull.. They were asked for their comments on the investigation and gave a very basic answer. No-one, including Red Bull, want this to go on for any longer than it has to but as FOM said, the process has to be through and fair.

  2. Oh yeah, the Horndog is clearly just busy twiddling his thumbs right about now…

  3. To issue this statement on a Sunday suggests some urgency.

    Is it to make sure the FOM position is irreproachable in the tsunami of mud slinging they are expecting. Isn’t that the motive for the Ford statement a couple of days ago?

    What on earth are they expecting to happen? I suppose in the UK as in the UK the various ‘constituencies’ connected to the circumstances being investigated are not slow to throw mud and political shenanigans and a wise CEO in charge of a multibillion multinational US corporation needs to prepare. The late apparently urgent nature of that preparation suggests they know and fear the outcome.

    1. Unless I’m missing something here, there’s no urgent statement to be found. This website reached out for a comment and got the most basic non comment in return. “We are aware and hope for a quick and fair result” it’s just about the least you can say without burning your own hands one way or the other.

      Genuinely not sure why this is an article at all to be honest. Could’ve been a few lines in the round up instead.

      1. True enough, they seem to have gotten a question (‘statement to’) and responded as one might expect. Still, if nothing else it was a good call to reach out to FOM given how they’ve harped on about values and reputation etc. in recent times.

        Neither Red Bull nor FOM wants this overshadowing the coverage of the new season. They know attention is pretty low at the moment, but to have the first race weekend with this unresolved, and thus constantly being brought up, is something everyone involved could do without.

      2. Genuinely not sure why this is an article at all to be honest.

        Unfortunately, this site acts more and more like a tabloid.

      3. @sjaakfoo
        Good call out.

        1. @sjaakfoo
          The rest of the comment fell off? Attempt two:

          While you’re correct it is even worse. I’m already used to flashy headlines trying to make a story where there isn’t one. This current headline is even worse though, it is just a plain lie. You cannot deduct FOM told RBR anything from their statement. And right above the statement we see called. Also not correct…

          I expect better @willwood

    2. I would expect the initial investigation to ascertain firstly whether it is appropriate for Horner to be suspended or not throughout the full investigation. I suspect they’re pressuring Red Bull to at least be seen to be acting fairly. Independent investigations are rarely particularly independent as the one paying the fee gets to set the guidelines. Nobody is going to win in this scenario.

    3. FOM has no right to demand anything as it was something intern between Red Bull team and parent Red Bull.
      Untill Red Bull comes out with information this is a none thing and we should ignore any rumours.

  4. I think Red Bull are in a lose/lose situation here. If they publicly support Horner and turns out he did it and they were complicit, PR and financial nightmare. If they denounce him and turns out he’s innocent, PR and financial nightmare.

    It’s understandable that it’s taking them a while to navigate their path, especially given we have no idea how cooperative either party are being internally.

    1. Red Bull’s actions really make it look like the press are sensationalising what is a rather mundane story. I get the feeling a lot of the rumours are far from the mark. I’m expecting he has been up to his old tricks, had an affair with a colleague that has turned sour, and potentially vindictive.

      They haven’t sacked Horner, nor have they even suspended him, they brought in outside legal assistance to assess the situation and not only had him attend the launch but was a large part of it. Red Bull would not have done that had he done heinous, like sexual assault or harassment.

      The Dutch journalist who claims he has seen the messages state that they were sent over a period of time. So it doesn’t sound like the messages were of an unwanted or abusive nature, most likely were reciprocated communications. From reading the journos output he does seem to hold some sort of grudge against Horner.

      It’s Geri I feel sorry for.

      1. it doesn’t sound like the messages were of an unwanted or abusive nature, most likely were reciprocated communications

        That’s a ridiculous assumption with absolutely no basis.

        1. I wouldn’t go that far. The allegations are so vague, and even after more than a week, few details have leaked, suggesting there’s just not that much salacious gossip.

          There are many possible stories to explain this, but they would all be baseless speculation without more information.

          I will say that I consider Horner to be a weaselly scheming politician, and I don’t particularly like him. But– He’s a superb team manager, and exceptionally self-aware of his (and Red Bull’s) image, so the idea of this sort of behavior seems… atypical.

          1. From what i have seen, this is more a case of the Telegraaf only publishing what is needed to make the story gain headway without putting in too many details, probably on legal advise (details risk claims for defamation, they make for greater risk of the people involved getting out in the public domain and there is a risk of the courts finding these details do nothing to further the resolving of this issue)

    2. Yeah exactly that. There are plenty of examples of companies getting it wrong either way. People have been fired only for it to become apparent that they were innocent and plenty of people have got away with doing things they shouldn’t only for it to come to light later.

      It’s a very difficult situation. There clearly isn’t enough evidence to conclusively say Horner is guilty or innocent. In that regard, you have to say “innocent until proven guilty” but that means waving away some very serious accusations and it would be an absolute PR disaster if that happened and it was later proven that they made the wrong decision.

    3. That’s because this world has gone to… It’s not up to RB to decide if someone is guilty or not, nor should they react before proof has been provided. If they are presented with a proof, then they share in responsibility if they don’t react. I mean, the way things are in this strange, woke world, i.e. someone from RB could pay someone from Mercedes to accuse Wolff of bad conduct or worse and create havoc in that team. If insinuation is enough to force someone to react (or not react, which would be considered an equal statement), then everybody is a target and fair game.
      If I’ve learnt anything in this life, especially when it comes to world events, public figures or the media; that’s to never jump to conclusions. There were so many lies and mistakes, yet the world just ignores them and moves on. Has anyone ever been “cleared” in public after being accused of something? Nah, it sticks with people forever now. Now let’s see what’s really going on, is it just a word of a single person, or there is proof or at least more witnesses.
      I wouldn’t be surprised either way. I’ve seen how violent Wolff is on TV (if he couldn’t control himself with smashing stuff on TV, intimidating people around him, I can only imagine him behind closed doors), and these guys are much alike.

      1. Has anyone ever been “cleared” in public after being accused of something? Nah

        I mean, yeah, Johnny Depp made a pretty big show of it… Though it probably takes someone pretty special to go to the effort involved.

        1. I thought he was guilty of at least something besides bringing the dogs into the country.

          I must admit though that I don’t follow that kind of news, even if it goes through the courts.

  5. Coventry Climax
    19th February 2024, 2:14

    The essence of independent investigation is that meddling with or putting pressure on the investigators is an attempt to compromise their independence. I can only hope the investigators are immune to it and do their investigations like they should be; independent and thorough, instead of directed by or even hastened by external pressure.

    If you doubt the level of independence of the investigators, then just say so, and/or come up with reasoning or even proof for your doubts.

    FOM trying to influence any part of this, compromise any independence of it, puts them in a bad daylight as far as I’m concerned. I see it as an attempt to influence a judge.

  6. I don’t think they’re asking them to rush anything. Rushing is a no win for anyone.

    All they’re asking for is once the investigation is completed that they don’t sit on it unless of course there’s appeals, or more investigation to be done.

    “At the earliest possible opportunity” could conceivably be weeks or months depending on the nature of the evidence, the need to interview people involved and of course lawyers who are known for their speed (not)

  7. There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about. -Oscar Wilde

    F1 doesn’t want any controversy to end early, in all reality – even if it doesn’t involve F1 at all, but only one team’s internal affairs. The bigger the issue and the more publicity it gets, the better it is.

    1. I don’t agree. Formula 1 is trying to expand in the US in particular and among younger generations in general. The last couple of years have been dull affairs despite all the hype because of RBR domination. Drive to Survive (which I stopped watching midway through the second season admittedly) is really plastic ‘reality TV’: what would or could they do with a real scandal involving potential litigation? Or real factions warring within Red Bull? Both those may be speculative stories only for now but they could also turn out to be actual. Spinning this into promoting Formula 1 – it’s own Me Too moment – would be impossible, I’d have thought; it would be terrible publicity. Not the kind of storylines they want.

      1. F1 doesn’t need to do or say anything at all to bask in the glory of global media freely talking about some aspect of F1 when they otherwise wouldn’t be talking about it at all. Arguably – not saying anything is just adding to the intrigue of the situation, and therefore, the media coverage it is getting.
        The team bosses have been granted celebrity status almost as much as the drivers have – 2 of them in particular, both of whom have now been in the media recently for questionable conduct.

        This isn’t a legal matter at this stage – only if or when it officially becomes a legal matter do the circumstances change. Until then, free speech is still alive and well, and available to everyone. Nobody knows exactly where this will go in the future.

        It’s worth remembering that F1’s commercial side is run by a company that makes money primarily by exploiting the media and consumers. Engagement is one of their primary metrics, and they aggressively use that to sell their media space to advertisers (whose moral standards are often no better).

        A good storyline or a bad one – we’re all still talking about F1 now, aren’t we. And that just makes F1 more interesting, and F1’s media space more valuable.

  8. I’m surprised the F1 organization even bothered to make a statement about something entirely unconcerning for them.
    Ultimately, the matter only concers Red Bull Racing to any extent, with all other organizations merely being third-parties.

    1. Probably some sleazy tabloid asked them for a statement.

      In a statement to RaceFans, FOM

  9. Apparently FIA have issued a statement saying they won’t be staying anything yet.

  10. My bet is Horner won’t be so keen to appear on TV as much as he likes to this year, at least until this story dies a death. Every cloud eh?

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