Christian Horner meets with Max Verstappen’s manager after father Jos’s tirade against Red Bull boss

Christian Horner met with Max Verstappen’s manager Raymond Vermeulen and other senior Red Bull figures in a meeting in Dubai on Monday, designed to diffuse tensions after a tumultuous week for the team.

Face-to-face talks took place without star driver Verstappen or his father Jos present, two days after Verstappen Snr insisted the team will “explode” if Horner stays in his role and stated the Red Bull F1 boss is “playing the victim”. Horner and Verstappen Snr were seen in heated conversation in Red Bull’s hospitality unit over the weekend.

However the meeting in Dubai “went well,” according to reports, with the second race of the 2024 season taking place this Saturday in Saudi Arabia. Max’s father Jos will not be present in Jeddah, due to competing in a rally event in Belgium.

It has also emerged that three-time world champion Verstappen, who coasted to victory in Saturday’s season-opener in Bahrain, has a release clause in his £50m-a-year contract which allows him to leave should team adviser Helmut Marko depart Red Bull.

Horner was keen last year to quietly dispense of 80-year-old Marko, who is a firmly ally of the Verstappen family. The divide has resulted in rumours that Verstappen could leave prior to his contract ending in 2028, speculation exacerbated further when Jos was seen in conversation with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff in the Bahrain paddock.

A report in the Daily Mail adds that Verstappen Snr and Wolff met for dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel in Manama last week, though Jos was keen to play it down as simply a meeting of two friends.

Verstappen Snr told the Mail on Saturday night: “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.”

Questioned further on whether he was the source of the leak of hundreds of WhatsApp messages last week, he said: “That wouldn’t make sense. Why would I do that when Max is doing so well here?”

The whole situation regarding Horner overshadowed what was a dominant start to the 2024 campaign for the reigning world champions, who secured a one-two finish in Saturday’s Bahrain race.

Christian Horner held a meeting with Max Verstappen’s manager Raymond Vermeulen (right) in Dubai on Monday (Getty Images)
Christian Horner held a meeting with Max Verstappen’s manager Raymond Vermeulen (right) in Dubai on Monday (Getty Images)

The Red Bull boss accompanied wife Geri Halliwell hand-in-hand in a show of unity at the race, insisting afterwards he was “absolutely confident” that he will stay in his position this year despite what he admitted was a “testing” week for his family.

The Red Bull team principal was cleared of “inappropriate behaviour” last 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.

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.”

Red Bull’s majority shareholder and Horner ally, Thai billionaire Chalerm Yoovidhya, also joined the Horners on the team’s terrace in a very public show of support for the embattled team principal.

Max Verstappen’s father Jos (right) says Red Bull will ‘explode’ if Horner stays in his position (Getty Images)
Max Verstappen’s father Jos (right) says Red Bull will ‘explode’ if Horner stays in his position (Getty Images)

Horner, 50, met with FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem and F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali on Friday at the Bahrain circuit. It remains to be seen how F1 and the sport’s governing body handle the matter, if at all, in the next week or so.

All those who participate in Formula 1 must abide by a set of regulations, with Article 12.2 stating that a competitor could be found in breach of the code for: “Any words, deeds or writings that have caused moral injury or loss to the FIA, its bodies, its members or its executive officers, and more generally on the interest of motorsport and on the values defended by the FIA.”

Horner told the written press on Saturday night: “I am not going to comment on anonymous speculative messages from an unknown source. I am not going to comment on what motives whatever person may have for doing this.

“Obviously, it has 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.

Horner was hand-in-hand with wife Geri Halliwell in the Bahrain paddock on Saturday (Getty Images)
Horner was hand-in-hand with wife Geri Halliwell in the Bahrain paddock on Saturday (Getty Images)

“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. You could see what it (the win) meant to the whole team. It is better to do your talking on the track.

“I have always been entirely confident that I would be here and my focus is on the season, and the races we have ahead.”

The Red Bull F1 chief, 50, is the longest-serving team principal on the F1 grid, having been at the helm since the team’s inception in 2005.

Horner, who back in 2021 signed a contract extension at Red Bull until 2026, was made a CBE in the New Year’s Honours list for services to motorsport, having previously received an OBE in 2013.

He has been in charge of Red Bull for six constructors’ championship victories and seven drivers’ championship triumphs – three for Verstappen and four for Sebastian Vettel.

Red Bull won 21 out of 22 races in 2023 in their most successful year so far in Formula 1, with Verstappen storming to his third-straight championship.