Christian Horner facing calls to go from star driver’s father Jos Verstappen: ‘He is playing the victim’

Jos Verstappen talks with Christian Horner
Jos Verstappen (right) has called for Christian Horner (left) to go - Getty Images/Clive Rose

Christian Horner might have hoped to have turned the corner. On Saturday, his Red Bull team won the Bahrain Grand Prix and crucially his wife Geri Horner, née Halliwell, the former Spice Girl, offered up her full public support.

Horner, 50, who has survived an independent inquiry into allegations of controlling behaviour made by a female employee and then the release of flirty and smutty messages purportedly swapped between the two, must have been breathing quite the sigh of relief.

Until that is Jos Verstappen, 51, entered the very messy fray. Verstappen, who is the father of Max Verstappen, the world champion and – apart from the car – Red Bull’s most valuable asset, effectively called on Horner to quit or else be fired.

“It cannot continue this way,” said Verstappen, himself a former F1 driver. “The situation is not good for the team and is driving people apart.”

In further comments to the Mail on Sunday, Verstappen Snr, who is Dutch, said: “There is tension here while he [Horner] remains in position.

“The team is in danger of being torn apart. It can’t go on the way it is, it will explode. He is playing the victim, when he is the one causing the problems.”

Geri Horner talking to Jos Verstappen at the Bahrain GP
Geri Horner was seen talking to Jos Verstappen at the Bahrain GP - Getty Images/Mark Thompson

To make matters worse, Verstppen Snr, who also acts as his son’s manager, was spotted over the weekend “on numerous occasions” in the company of Horner’s arch enemy Toto Wolff, who runs the Mercedes F1 team. Inevitably that sparked speculation that Verstappen Jnr could be off to Mercedes next year, which happens to have a vacancy after Lewis Hamilton announced he was off to Ferrari.

Jos watched his son start the season with another dominant win at the Bahrain Grand Prix
Jos watched his son, Max (left), start the season with another dominant win - Getty Images/Mark Thompson

Even by the merry-go-round world of F1, this is all too dizzy-making.

The public flirting between Wolff and Verstappen Snr follows a torrid few days for Horner.

He was cleared of wrongdoing last Wednesday by an independent barrister, hired by Red Bull, to investigate claims of controlling behaviour. But a day later, 79 screenshots containing WhatsApp messages and images – some of them lewd – were leaked via an anonymous email account to accredited journalists as well as F1 team principals and officials involved in the sport.

Geri, formerly known as Ginger Spice, duly turned up in Bahrain to stand by her man. She gave him a kiss and an embrace in public that spelt solidarity in the face of growing speculation over the state of the marriage.

Christian and Geri Horner put on a public display of affection in Bahrain
Christian and Geri Horner put on a public display of affection in Bahrain - PA/David Davies

“I have the support of an incredible family, an incredible wife,” said Horner on Saturday. It helped too that Red Bull’s majority owner Chalerm Yoovidhya, a Thai businessman, is understood to have given Horner his full support.

Lawyers for Horner have warned newspapers and websites against reprinting the messages, claiming to do so would be unlawful and in breach of strict privacy laws.

Asked by a Dutch newspaper if he was the source of the leak, Verstappen Snr told De Telegraaf in comments reported by the BBC: “Why would I do that? Max has a contract with Red Bull until 2028, is performing great and feels at home here. I have no interest in that at all.”

Vertsappen Snr, who has been married three times, has a somewhat fiery reputation on the F1 circuit. Certainly he is no stranger to controversy. As far back as 1998 he was given a five-year non-custodial sentence by a Belgian court after a fight at a go-kart track. “Verstappen was found guilty of fracturing the victim’s skull,” assistant public prosecutor Cedric Stuyck told the Reuters news agency in 2000.

Horner said in the wake of the leaked messages: “I’m not going to comment on anonymous, speculative messages from an unknown source.”

He has said he is “absolutely” confident he would remain in post, adding: “I’ve always been entirely confident that I would be here. There was a full, lengthy internal process that was completed by an independent KC. And the grievance that was raised was dismissed. End of. Move on.”

The F1 circus moves to Saudi Arabia for the second race of the season on Saturday. Horner should still be in a job by then. Unless Jos Verstappen has his way.

Wolff leads calls for ‘transparency’

Mercedes team principal Wolff implored the sport’s twin powers, governing body the FIA and Formula One, to “set the compass right” following Red Bull’s internal investigation into Horner.

Wolff has been one of the most vocal critics of the way in which Red Bull’s parent company in Austria handled the investigation into Horner. At last week’s pre-season test Austrian called for greater “transparency” in Red Bull’s handling of the affair.

And after Saturday’s opening race of the season in Bahrain, Wolff has renewed calls for the sport’s rulers to act.

Toto Wolff chatting with Christian Horner and Helmut Marko before the race
Toto Wolff chatted with Horner and Helmut Marko before the race - AFP/Andrej Isakovic

“From where we sit, it’s really difficult to say any more,” Wolff said after his drivers George Russell and Lewis Hamilton finished fifth and seventh respectively in Sakhir. “This is now a decision for Red Bull and the governing body (FIA).

“It’s not in the hands of competitors to have any action. If we go beyond what we’ve already said, it looks like a battle between competitors in Formula One.

“I don’t want to diminish the whole situation by making it seem like the Mercedes or the McLaren guy talks about the Red Bull guys.

“I think let’s see where it goes in the next few days. I would very much hope that the governing body, the sanctioning body, the commercial right holder sets the compass right.”

Wolff added that he “unfortunately” missed the moment when Horner and his wife Geri walked into the paddock hand-in-hand in a show of solidarity before Saturday’s race.

Christian and Geri Horner arrive on Saturday hand in hand
Christian and Geri Horner arrived on Saturday hand in hand - Getty Images/Clive Mason

But Horner, sitting down with the media for the first time since the leaking of messages, said he was hugely grateful for her support. Geri watched the race in the Red Bull garage, standing next to the father of the winning driver, Jos Verstappen, a man with whom relations are seriously strained at the moment.

“I am not going to comment on what motives whatever person may have for doing this,” Horner, 50, replied when asked whether he felt someone was trying to personally bring him down. “My focus is on this team, my family, my wife and going racing. I have the support of an incredible family, an incredible wife and an incredible team and everybody within that team. And my focus is going racing, winning racing and doing the best I can.

Horner added that he was “100 per cent” confident he would still be at Red Bull at the end of the season, no matter what was thrown at him.


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“Absolutely, absolutely,” he said. “One hundred per cent. There was a full lengthy internal process that was completed by an independent KC and the grievance that was raised was dismissed. End of. Move on.”

“We are here to focus on the track and the start to the season we have had is an incredible result by the whole. It is the perfect start in our 20th season. It has been a long winter and all the men and women in MK have done an incredible job to design and produce a great car to start the season with. One down out of 24.

“Obviously, the last few days have not been pleasant with some of the unwanted attention but the focus is very much on the cars and my focus has been on what is happening on track and the result today demonstrates where the focus is and we move onwards.

“I cannot comment on what people are choosing to write. My focus is on the team, my family and the people around me. I have their full support, full backing and for me it is ability looking ahead and moving forward.

We are all here to go racing. I am sorry it was not a more entertaining race for you today but that is the result of the team doing its job and producing an incredible car.”

Asked about the celebrations in parc ferme afterwards, Horner added: “You could see what it meant to the whole team. Better to do your talking on the track.”