Red Bull principal Christian Horner dismissed “anonymous speculation” after files purportedly related to his misconduct investigation were widely distributed on Thursday, two days before his team opens its bid for a fourth consecutive Formula One drivers’ championship.
His statement was forced by a stunning off-track development: As the second practice was going on for the Bahrain Grand Prix, files were emailed to nearly 200 people in the F1 paddock, including Liberty Media, F1, the FIA, the other nine team principals and multiple media outlets.
The authenticity of the files has not been verified by ESPN or The Associated Press; the files came from a generic email account.
The files were sent one day after the team’s parent company dismissed a complaint of alleged misconduct by Horner toward a team employee. He was at the practice when the files were sent.
“I won’t comment on anonymous speculation, but to reiterate, I have always denied the allegations,” Horner said in a statement read to journalists by a team spokesperson; the statement was from Horner, not on behalf of Red Bull.
“I respected the integrity of the independent investigation and fully cooperated with it every step of the way,” Horner said. “It was a thorough and fair investigation conducted by an independent specialist barrister, and it has concluded, dismissing the complaint made. I remain fully focused on the start of the season.”
Details of the allegations involving Horner have not been made public. The Red Bull company said Wednesday that the complainant has a right to appeal the decision.
A Red Bull spokesperson reiterated to ESPN that Horner will be in the Bahrain paddock on Friday, when qualifying for Saturday’s Bahrain Grand Prix will take place.
Horner, 50, has been the team principal since Red Bull entered F1 as a full constructor in 2005. He has guided the team to six constructors’ championships and seven drivers’ championships. Red Bull won all but one of the 22 races last season, with 19 wins for Max Verstappen, the three-time champion. Its redesigned car is widely considered the fastest on the grid for 2024 going into Saturday’s season opener.
McLaren team principal Zak Brown said F1 and governing body the FIA should seek to reexamine Red Bull’s decision to dismiss the complaint.
“From what I’ve seen, there continues to be a lot of rumors and speculation, questions,” Brown said shortly before the anonymous email was sent. “I think the sanctioning body has a responsibility and authority to our sport, to our fans. All of us in Formula One are ambassadors for the sport on and off the track, like you see in other sports. And so I think they need to make sure that things have been fully transparent with them.”
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff called the statement from Red Bull, which did not include any details of the investigation, “pretty basic” and said F1 “needs more transparency” on the issue.
“I just simply think that as a sport, we cannot afford to leave things in the vague and in the opaque on critical topics like this because it’s going to catch us out,” Wolff said, also speaking before the anonymous email.
Horner, who remained in his role as Red Bull team principal during the internal investigation, led Red Bull during Thursday practice and said his team was more unified than ever heading into the new season.
“I’m just pleased that the process is over,” Horner told British broadcaster Sky Sports News, speaking before Wolff’s and Brown’s comments. “I obviously can’t comment about it, but we’re here very much to focus now on the Grand Prix and the season ahead and trying to defend both of our titles.”
Asked whether the team was unified, he said: “Within the team, it’s never been stronger.”
Information from The Associated Press and ESPN’s Nate Saunders contributed to this report.