Christian Horner responds after texts allegedly sent to female colleague leaked

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

The team principal, married to Spice Girl member Geri Halliwell who arrived in the paddock hand-in-hand with her husband ahead of the race on Saturday, 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.

However, just 24 hours later, 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. The Independent has seen the leaked material, a Google Drive with 79 separate documents, but is unable to verify the authenticity of the content.

It is also unclear currently whether the alleged exchanges formed part of the investigation or whether it is new evidence. The embattled Red Bull boss was present in the F1 paddock in Bahrain on Friday, as his star driver Max Verstappen took pole position for the race on Saturday.

Horner, 50, met with Ben Sulayem and Domenicali on Friday at the Bahrain circuit. It remains to be seen how F1 and the sport’s governing body handle the matter in the next few days, after a saga which has overshadowed the first race of the 2024 season.

Moments prior to practice on Friday, Horner 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.”

Horner initially responded to the latest development with a short statement on Thursday night: “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.”

Christian Horner arrived hand in hand with Geri Halliwell in the Bahrain paddock on Saturday (Getty Images)
Christian Horner arrived hand in hand with Geri Halliwell in the Bahrain paddock on Saturday (Getty Images)

The Independent contacted Red Bull GmbH, Red Bull Racing’s parent company, for further comment to which they replied: “This is a private matter between Mr Horner and another and it would be inappropriate for Red Bull to comment on this.”

Horner could yet find himself in hot water with the sport’s governing body, the FIA, with Ben Sulayem having discussed the matter with Domenicali on Friday in Bahrain.

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.”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff and McLaren CEO Zak Brown had, earlier on Thursday, called for F1 and the FIA to review the investigation conducted by Red Bull.

Horner was cleared of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ after a Red Bull investigation (Getty Images)
Horner was cleared of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ after a Red Bull investigation (Getty Images)

Speaking to Sky Sports earlier on Thursday, prior to the leaked texts, Horner said: “I am pleased that the process is over, and I cannot comment about it.

“I am here to focus on the grand prix and the season ahead and trying to defend both of our titles. I can’t give you any further comment, but the process has been conducted and concluded.

“I am pleased to be here in Bahrain, and with the team, focused on the season ahead. Within the team, it (the unity) has never been stronger.”

The complaint, first publicised on February 5, alleged “inappropriate, controlling behaviour” against Horner. He strongly denied the allegations, both initially and in public at Red Bull’s 2024 F1 car launch in Milton Keynes as well as last week at pre-season testing.

Horner is present in the paddock in Bahrain on Friday (PA Wire)
Horner is present in the paddock in Bahrain on Friday (PA Wire)

But after an investigation was conducted and completed by an external lawyer, who interviewed Horner for nearly ten hours on February 9 in London, Red Bull GmbH confirmed that the “grievance” against Horner has been dismissed. The female colleague does, however, have the right to an appeal.

A Red Bull GmbH spokesperson stated: “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.”

It is understood that neither F1’s American owners Liberty Media, nor its regulator the FIA, has seen Red Bull GmbH’s report into Horner which is thought to stretch to 150 pages – and was said to be “confidential”.

The Red Bull team principal is married to Spice Girl member Geri Horner (Getty Images)
The Red Bull team principal is married to Spice Girl member Geri Horner (Getty Images)

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.

Sky F1 pundit Martin Brundle insisted the statement, from Red Bull HQ in Salzburg, “drew a firm line” under the matter.

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 Max 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.

Yet the investigation into Horner’s conduct has cast a dark cloud over the team’s preparations for the 2024 season, where they and Verstappen will be favourites for title glory once again.

The first race of the 2024 F1 season – featuring a record 24 races – is this Saturday, 2 March, in Bahrain.