Christian Horner: A timeline of allegations against Red Bull Racing boss as new messages are leaked

Picture from July 2023 of Christian Horner of Red Bull Racing.
Credit: PA
Christian Horner has always denied the claims made by a female colleague. Credit: PA

Christian Horner’s Formula One future is back in the spotlight after WhatsApp messages appearing to be sent by him were leaked.

Earlier this month, Red Bull GmbH said Horner was under investigation following an accusation of “inappropriate behaviour” by a female colleague, which he emphatically denied.

The investigation cleared Horner, but his future has been put back under scrutiny following the latest development.

Here, ITV News looks at the timeline of events since the allegations against Horner became public.

5 February: Red Bull Racing’s parent company GmbH confirms Horner is under investigation following an accusation of “inappropriate behaviour”. The company says it “takes these matters extremely seriously and the investigation will be completed as soon as practically possible”.

9 February: Horner is questioned by a lawyer for eight hours at a secret London location. There is no immediate resolution.

15 February: Horner appears at Red Bull’s car launch – his first appearance in public since news of the allegations emerged. He vows to be in his role as Red Bull team principal for the first race of the season, and says: “For me, it is business as normal.”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has called for transparency in the investigation. Credit: PA

18 February: F1 makes its first public comment on the matter, calling for Horner’s future to be “clarified at the earliest opportunity”.

20 February: Despite the ongoing investigation, Horner flies to Bahrain for three days of testing ahead of the new season.

21 February: Horner takes his position on the Red Bull pit wall for the opening day of the test. Rival Mercedes boss Toto Wolff demands transparency from Red Bull’s investigation, and says the controversy is “an issue for all of Formula One”.

22 February: Horner appears in a press conference alongside four other F1 team principals. He refuses to comment on the investigation, but says “everybody would like a conclusion as soon as possible”.

Three-times world champion Max Verstappen said he was respecting the inquiry process. Credit: PA

23 February: Red Bull’s triple world champion Max Verstappen says “it will be nice for everyone” when the investigation into Horner is concluded. Horner heads back to England following the conclusion of the test.

28 February: Red Bull GmbH announces the “independent investigation into the allegations made against Mr Horner is complete and Red Bull can confirm that the grievance has been dismissed”, clearing Horner to remain in his position.

29 February: Horner tell Sky Sports that Red Bull has “never been stronger” in his first interview since being cleared to remain as team principal.

29 February: Hundreds of messages and a number of images apparently between Horner and the complainant were sent from an anonymous email account to members of the F1 paddock – including FIA president Mohamed ben Sulayem, F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali and the grid’s nine other team principals, as well as the media.

1 March: Horner responds to the fresh allegations by saying he wouldn't comment on "anonymous speculation". He meets with Ben Sulayem and Domenicali at the Bahrain circuit.

2 March: Horner's wife and former Spice Girl, Geri Halliwell flies in to Bahrain for the Grand Prix. The pair are photographed hand-in-hand walking down the paddock after Max Verstappen cruised to victory in the season's opener. He says he is "absolutely confident" that he will remain as Red Bull boss this season.

3 March: Jos Verstappen, the father of F1 world champion Max Verstappen says the Red Bull team are in "danger of being torn apart" if Horner stays on a team principal. Red Bull release a statement saying they remain "united".

4 March: Horner meets with Max Verstappen's agent Raymond Vermeulen to try and defuse tensions.

6 March: Max Verstappen stands by his father Jos, saying “he is not a liar” following his explosive claim that Red Bull could explode if Christian Horner remains as team principal.

7 March: Red Bull suspend the female employee at the centre of the allegations against Christian Horner. Max Verstappen is fastest in practice at the Jeddah Grand Prix in Saudi Arabia.

Red Bull Racing's Sergio Perez during second practice ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix. Credit: PA

What were the accusations against Horner?

On 5 February, Red Bull Racing’s parent company Red Bull GmbH confirmed Horner was under investigation following an accusation of “inappropriate behaviour”. The company said it “takes these matters extremely seriously and the investigation will be completed as soon as practically possible”.

Horner denied the claim – made by a female colleague – and remained as team principal and CEO of the Milton Keynes-based team. It is understood the complainant also continued in her role.

How did Red Bull react?

Horner was questioned by a lawyer for eight hours at a secret London location. There was no immediate resolution and Horner subsequently appeared at Red Bull’s car launch on February 15.

He continued to dismiss the allegations. Horner then headed to Bahrain for last week’s three-day test before returning to England, while Red Bull’s Austrian board met to discuss his future.

Team principal Christian Horner, right, with consultant Helmut Marko ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix. Credit: PA

What was the verdict?

On the eve of this weekend’s curtain-raiser – and 23 days after it emerged Horner was under investigation – Red Bull GmBH said the grievance against the 50-year old had been dismissed.

The corporation said it was confident the investigation had been “fair, rigorous and impartial” but added that the report, understood to stretch to 150 pages, is “confidential”.

Is this the end of it?

That remains to be seen - though a leak of messages allegedly sent between Horner and the complainant on Thursday suggest the matter is far from over.

Red Bull has already said the complainant has “a right of appeal” and it is unclear at this stage whether she will pursue any further action.

Horner appeared on the Red Bull pit-wall for practice on Thursday.

What does it mean for Max Verstappen?

Despite the controversy, the Dutch driver will head into Saturday’s curtain-raiser as the favourite to win his fourth world championship on the bounce.

Speaking before it had been confirmed Horner would remain as team principal, Verstappen said: “He [Horner] is very important otherwise he wouldn’t have been in that position for such a long time.”

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know