Christian Horner allegations timeline: How Red Bull team principal became embroiled in scandal

Christian Horner admitted the past week has been “testing” for him and his family after appearing hand-in-hand with wife Geri Halliwell at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Red Bull team principal was cleared of “inappropriate behaviour” on Wednesday after a three-week internal probe conducted by an external lawyer, following allegations from a female colleague which were strongly refuted by Horner, before WhatsApp texts allegedly between the two parties – some sexually suggestive – were leaked to the media 24 hours later.

Yet Horner was present in the paddock in Bahrain throughout the race weekend, including on Saturday as Max Verstappen eased to a first win of the season. The 50-year-old accompanied his Spice Girl pop star wife Geri as she arrived the Bahrain International Circuit, presenting a “united front” as his future in F1 continues to hang in the balance.

Here is a timeline of how the allegations have played out.

5 February – colleague’s allegations surface

A report from Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf states a Red Bull employee has made serious allegations about team principal Christian Horner to the team’s parent company, Red Bull GmbH.

A separate report in The Times says the complaint came from a female colleague and concerns “inappropriate, controlling behaviour”. The allegations are treated seriously by Red Bull chief executive Oliver Mintzlaff.

Horner, 50, who has been Red Bull team principal since 2005, remains in his role during the investigation and strongly denies the accusation.

Christian Horner and Adrian Newey, the chief technical officer of Red Bull Racing (Getty Images)
Christian Horner and Adrian Newey, the chief technical officer of Red Bull Racing (Getty Images)

9 February – Horner meets lawyer

Horner meets with the lawyer in charge of the investigation in a nine-hour meeting at a secret location, as the externally appointed barrister begins to dig into the case on behalf of Red Bull GmbH.

“After being made aware of certain recent allegations, the company launched an independent investigation,” the organisation says in a statement. “This process, which is already under way, is being carried out by an external specialist barrister. The company takes these matters extremely seriously and the investigation will be completed as soon as practically possible.

“It would not be appropriate to comment further at this time.”

13 February – business as usual

Horner continues his role as Red Bull’s team principal, despite the ongoing investigation and media storm. He is on site at Silverstone at a secret filming day for Red Bull as he goes about his duties.

15 February – Red Bull car launch

Horner makes his first public appearance since the allegations surfaced, as he attends the launch of Red Bull’s new car ahead of the 2024 season. He tells the media that claims of inappropriate behaviour against him are a “distraction” for Red Bull. The team principal added that he denies the allegations made by a female colleague.

“I’m going through a process and fully respect it. For me, it is business as normal and I’m focused on the season ahead,” he says. “Of course, it is a distraction for the team but the team are very together.”

Horner adds that the team have been “tremendously supportive”.

Star driver Max Verstappen says his relationship with Horner remains “very good” despite the ongoing investigation into his boss’s conduct.

Horner, right, pictured at the launch of Red Bull’s new car (Getty Images for Red Bull Racing)
Horner, right, pictured at the launch of Red Bull’s new car (Getty Images for Red Bull Racing)

18 February – F1 wants matter ‘clarified’

Formula One speaks out on the protracted scandal, saying the organisation wishes for the investigation to be over as soon as possible.

“We have noted that Red Bull has instigated an independent investigation into internal allegations at Red Bull Racing,” F1 says in a statement. “We hope that the matter will be clarified at the earliest opportunity, after a fair and thorough process, and we will not comment further at this time.”

20 February – Marko defends Red Bull response

Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko praises the company’s handling of the situation. “The sooner a result is available, the better because of course, rumours and other stories are bound to sprout due to the long duration,” he says. “[But] I think Red Bull has reacted very well in this matter. The long duration of this investigation is not their fault. They are endeavouring to [have] a fair investigation and then react accordingly.”

Helmut Marko (right) has worked alongside Horner since Red Bull Racing’s inception in 2005 (Getty Images)
Helmut Marko (right) has worked alongside Horner since Red Bull Racing’s inception in 2005 (Getty Images)

22 February – Wolff calls for transparency

Toto Wolff, Horner’s long-time rival in charge of Mercedes, calls for “transparency from Red Bull over the investigation.

Formula One and the teams stand for inclusion, equality, fairness and diversity, and that is not only about talking about it, but living it day in, day out,” Wolff says. “These are just standards we set ourselves. We are a global sport and one of the most important sport platforms in the world and role models, too.

“What is important at that stage is for a process with rigour. I think what Red Bull has started as an independent investigation, if this is done in the right way, with transparency, that is something we need to look at ... It is a phenomenon and an issue for all of Formula One, and every individual that works out there.”

26 February – Engine partner Ford criticises Red Bull

Ford Motor Co, which will partner with Red Bull in 2026 to form Red Bull-Ford Powertrains, reveals it is unhappy with the nature of the investigation, as well as Red Bull’s lack of response to a request for further information on 14 February.

In a letter, Ford CEO Jim Farley says the American automotive giant is “increasingly frustrated by the lack of resolution or clear indication from you about when you anticipate a fair and just resolution of this matter”.

He adds: “As we have indicated previously, without satisfactory response, Ford’s values are non-negotiable. It is imperative that our racing partners share and demonstrate a genuine commitment to those same values. My team and I are available at any time to discuss this matter. We remain insistent on, and hopeful for, a resolution we can all stand behind.

“We are likewise frustrated by the lack of full transparency surrounding this matter with us, your corporate partners, and look forward to receiving a complete account of all findings.”

Horner talks with Jim Farley, CEO of Ford, at last year’s Miami Grand Prix (Getty Images)
Horner talks with Jim Farley, CEO of Ford, at last year’s Miami Grand Prix (Getty Images)

28 February – Horner cleared of all charges

A statement from Red Bull GmbH read: “The independent investigation into the allegations made against Mr Horner is complete, and Red Bull can confirm that the grievance has been dismissed.

“The complainant has a right of appeal.

“Red Bull is confident that the investigation has been fair, rigorous and impartial.

“The investigation report is confidential and contains the private information of the parties and third parties who assisted in the investigation, and therefore we will not be commenting further out of respect for all concerned. Red Bull will continue striving to meet the highest workplace standards.”

29 February - Horner returns to F1 paddock

Horner broke his silence after returning to the F1 grid for the start of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix and said he was “pleased” the investigation into alleged “inappropriate behaviour” was over.

“I obviously can’t comment about it,” Horner told Sky Sports News. “[I’m] here and very much focused now on the grand prix, the season ahead and trying to defend both of our titles.

“I can’t give you any further comment, the process has been conducted and concluded. I’m pleased to be here in Bahrain and focused on the season ahead.

“Within the team it’s [unity has] never been stronger.”

29 February - Horner responds after WhatsApps leaked

Just 24 hours after he was cleared, WhatsApp texts and pictures were leaked from an anonymous source – to FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali, the sport’s nine other team principals and members of the media – allegedly showing conversations between Horner and the complainant involved in the initial investigation.

The Independent saw the leaked material but was unable to verify the authenticity of the content, while it was unclear whether the alleged exchanges formed part of the investigation or if it was new evidence.

Horner responded with a short statement: “I won’t comment on anonymous speculation, but to reiterate, I have always denied the allegations. I respected the integrity of the independent investigation and fully cooperated with it every step of the way.

“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.”

1 March - Horner refuses to comment on ‘anonymous speculation from unknown sources’

Christian Horner responded with a firm statement after WhatsApp messages – some of a sexually suggestive nature – allegedly from the Red Bull F1 boss were leaked.

Horner also met with Ben Sulayem and Domenicali on Friday at the Bahrain circuit. Moments prior to third practice, he said to members of the press in the paddock: “I am not going to comment on anonymous speculation from unknown sources.”

When asked what comes next he replied: “We go racing.”

1 March - Horner oversees qualification as Max Verstappen claims pole

Christian Horner oversees Red Bull’s qualification with Max Verstappen claiming pole position for the opening round of the new Formula One season in Bahrain. The triple world champion was made to work for the 33rd pole of his career under the thousands of bulbs that light up the Sakhir Circuit with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc second, two tenths back, George Russell third for Mercedes and Sergio Perez, in the other Red Bull, down in fifth.

2 March - Horner and Halliwell hand-in-hand as Verstappen wins Bahrain GP

Former Spice Girls singer Geri Halliwell was seen standing in solidarity alongside her husband Christian Horner, as Max Verstappen cruised to victory at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The pair, who have a seven-year-old son, shared a kiss inside the Red Bull hospitality unit and were together celebrating Verstappen’s victory by the podium after the race in a clear show of solidarity after a week in the spotlight.

Speaking to media on the paddock, Horner said before the race: “It’s been very testing for my family but we are very strong as a family and our focus is on this race.”

Horner declared he is “absolutely confident” he will stay on as Red Bull boss for the remainder of the season, while Red Bull’s majority shareholder, Thai billionaire Chalerm Yoovidhya, also joined the duo on the team’s terrace in a public show of support for Horner.

Geri Halliwell appeared alongside husband Christian Horner in Bahrain (Getty Images)
Geri Halliwell appeared alongside husband Christian Horner in Bahrain (Getty Images)

3 March - Verstappen’s father takes aim at Horner with ‘torn apart’ claim

Red Bull are forced to insist they remain “united” after Max Verstappen’s father, Jos, claimed it is “in danger of being torn apart” if Christian Horner remains in his role.

Speaking to the Daily Mail newspaper following the Bahrain Grand Prix, Verstappen Snr, a former F1 driver, added further fuel to the fire when he 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.”

Verstappen Snr, who said he would “explode” if Horner remained in his position, also denied being the source of the leak: “That wouldn’t make sense. Why would I do that when Max is doing so well here?”

A Red Bull Racing spokesperson said: “There are no issues here. The team are united and we are focused on racing.”