Horner exonerated but Red Bull’s lack of transparency does F1 no favours

<span>Christian Horner will doubtless feel vindicated but Red Bull GmbH’s handling of the issue should now be in the spotlight.</span><span>Photograph: Dan Mullan/Getty Images</span>
Christian Horner will doubtless feel vindicated but Red Bull GmbH’s handling of the issue should now be in the spotlight.Photograph: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Christian Horner has been nothing but bullish in the insistence of his innocence throughout Red Bull’s investigation into alleged inappropriate behaviour, of which on Wednesday he was finally exonerated. He will doubtless feel vindicated while his team’s parent company, Red Bull GmbH, who instigated the inquiry, are clearly hoping this will simply draw a line under the affair. They do not deserve such benevolence.

The complaint made by a female employee against Horner was dismissed after an investigation that lasted almost eight weeks. The speculation that accompanied it has been rife but nothing in the inquiry has been made public, including the nature of the complaint, Horner’s defence, its conclusions or how they were reached.

Related: Christian Horner cleared after investigation into behaviour at Red Bull

Red Bull GmbH, who issued the statement, insisted from the off that it was a private investigation. At its conclusion they stated that the information it had gathered was confidential and they would not make any further comment out of “respect for all concerned”.

This breathtaking lack of transparency was understandable while it was ongoing but now, with the full report in hand and a definitive decision reached, to declare the matter simply closed is an entirely unedifying conclusion for all concerned, save perhaps Red Bull GmbH.

On Wednesday, before the announcement was made, Lewis Hamilton, astute and appreciative of the bigger picture as ever, observed why it mattered beyond the decision itself.

“We always have to do more to try to make the sport and the environment people work in feel safe and inclusive,” he said.

“It [the investigation] does need to be resolved as it’s hanging over the sport and it will be really interesting to see how it’s dealt with in terms of the effect it may or may not have on the sport moving forwards. It’s a really important moment for the sport to make sure that we stand true to our values.”

Hamilton’s Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, had already called for transparency from Red Bull and the investigation because it was “an issue for all of F1”. Most damningly, with Ford to join Red Bull Racing as engine partner in 2026, the Ford chief executive, Jim Farley, wrote to the team expressing frustration at the “lack of full transparency with us your corporate partners” and that he expected to receive a “complete account of all findings”.

One wonders whether Farley has indeed received the full account or whether he, too, has been denied. If so he will demand answers and if he is given them then why not the wider public?

As it stands, with no details revealed, it is impossible to make a judgment on what happened. Indeed even very senior figures in the sport have expressed disquiet, noting that it is hard to pass comment or declare this is a satisfactory closure when there is no information on what happened or on how the conclusions were reached.

Even the full nature of the complaint has still not been officially explained. That simple detail would immediately end some of the more lurid rumours still doing the rounds within F1.

This is not a good look for the sport over which this has been hanging for weeks but which has now been told it has been reconciled to the satisfaction of Red Bull, that there’s nothing to see here so please do move along.

Yet so much still does not add up. Red Bull GmbH were acting somewhat out of character when they announced the investigation publicly in the first place. Their modus operandi in these circumstances is usually to say nothing, which they conceivably could have done before conducting the entire process behind closed doors. They chose not to but now have once more battened down the hatches.

A curious agenda and one that lends itself to the theory, as advanced by Horner’s supporters, that the way it was handled was part of a powerplay orchestrated by certain elements at Red Bull in Austria aimed at destabilising or even removing Horner.

If that was indeed the case it was a clumsy, ill thought-through affair, a blunt instrument that swiftly became unwieldy and embarrassing. A lack of disclosure might simply be further obfuscation of this were it the case. Again, with no information judgment is all but impossible.

At the Red Bull car launch two weeks ago, where Horner had once more resolutely insisted he had done nothing wrong, he had looked somewhat worn as he repeated his denial of wrongdoing while insisting he could say nothing more because the “process was ongoing”.

On Wednesday before the decision was announced, Red Bull’s world champion Max Verstappen said he had “trust in the process”. That process is now complete, yet it is all but impossible to have trust in any proceedings if nothing about them is known. This must be obvious to Horner, Red Bull and Verstappen.

If Red Bull, and by association Formula One, genuinely intend to stand by their values as Hamilton suggested rightly that they should, this conclusion as it stands falls far short.