F1 News: Horner, Verstappen dance around Red Bull scandal

(GMM) As the wraps came off a rather-radical 2024 Red Bull on Thursday, Christian Horner and Max Verstappen tried to swerve around the pre-season scandal.

Max Verstappen poses for a portrait during Red Bull Racing 2024 Season Launch RB20 in London, UK // Sam Todd / Red Bull Content Pool
Max Verstappen poses for a portrait during Red Bull Racing 2024 Season Launch RB20 in London, UK // Sam Todd / Red Bull Content Pool

“Everything I’m going to say about that can, of course, be interpreted in a certain way,” triple world champion Verstappen said when asked about the management scandal and accusations that could end Horner’s reign as team boss.

“It’s better not to say anything for a while,” he told De Telegraaf.

It had been suggested that the Verstappen camp, including Max’s father Jos but also with the backing of Dr Helmut Marko, are actually involved in the push to oust Horner.

“The relationship is the same as always, I can tell you that,” Verstappen insisted. “I don’t know who writes these kinds of things, but Christian and I are the same as always.”

There had been suggestions that Horner might not attend the RB20’s launch or the start of pre-season testing amid the ongoing investigation, but he bravely faced reporters at Milton-Keynes.

“For me, it’s business as usual and I’m confident,” Horner, 50, said. “If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be here.

“It’s inevitably a distraction,” he admitted, “but as a team we are absolutely united.”

Horner also joined Verstappen in denying there is a rift with the Dutch and Austrian elements of the Red Bull operation.

“It’s not like that at all,” he said. “I was with Jos and Max at Silverstone a couple of days ago. Max is very focused on his work, he’s very supportive and I’m looking forward to the season with him.

“Helmut? There are always rumors, but we are together as a team,” Horner added. “That’s how we’ve always been, and that’s how we will continue to operate.

“We are one team, one group, with the company’s management. The support from shareholders has been phenomenal – without it we wouldn’t be here.”

Horner admitted, however, that he isn’t sure how long Red Bull GmbH’s investigation will take.

“I’m absolutely committed to this team,” he said. “I’ve been here since the beginning. I’ve built this team. But my focus is on the future.

“I feel the support within the business, within our partners, within the industry – it’s been overwhelming,” Horner added. “But there’s a job to do.

“I fully deny the accusations, and my role obviously continues.”

Critically, Marko was at the Milton-Keynes event on Thursday – as was new Red Bull CEO Oliver Mintzlaff who has been tipped to succeed Horner.

Verstappen, 26, insisted he is not worried that the distraction of the Horner affair has put Red Bull’s eye off the ball in the critical weeks heading into the new season.

“No,” he said. “I feel that everyone is very focused and very motivated. The spirit in the team is honestly better than ever.

“Besides, my life is not only Formula 1. When I’m at home, I prefer not to think about it too much.”

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