Christian Horner says 'time to draw a line' under claims after Red Bull accuser suspended

Christian Horner says 'time to draw a line' under claims after Red Bull accuser suspended

Christian Horner said it’s “time to draw a line” under claims of inappropriate behaviour after it emerged on Thursday his accuser has been suspended following Red Bull’s investigation.

The Formula One team principal, 50, was allowed to remain in his role after Red Bull Racing’s parent company GmbH said last Wednesday that the grievance against him had been dismissed.

The Red Bull boss was cleared of inappropriate behaviour towards the unnamed colleague, but intimate WhatsApp messages he reportedly sent her were leaked on the eve of the new F1 season.

The PA news agency understands the complainant, an employee of the Milton Keynes team, has now been suspended on full pay.

It is understood the female member of staff, who is believed to have reported for work on Monday, has been suspended as a direct of result of Red Bull’s inquiry.

The complainant is believed to have received a legal letter at the beginning of this week, and now has five working days to appeal the outcome of the investigation which has cast an enormous shadow over Red Bull and the sport.

A Red Bull Racing spokesperson said: “We are unable to comment as it is an internal matter.”

Horner told reporters at an official FIA press conference in Saudi Arabia on Thursday afternoon: “Obviously there’s been an awful lot of coverage surrounding this. But one has to go back to the basis that a grievance was raised, it was investigated, and it was dismissed.

“Obviously it’s been of great interest to different elements of the media, for different reasons. I think it is time now to draw a line under it.”

He continued: “It’s been a very trying period. I’m married and have three children, and when that intrusion involves your children, and your marriage. I have a beautiful family and a very supportive wife. I’m the only one who has been named in this. So of course, it’s very trying. When there’s children involved, family, parents… it’s not pretty.”

When directly asked about the employee’s suspension, Horner said: “I’m afraid I can’t comment on anything that is confidential between an employee and the company.”

Christian Horner during a news conference in Saudi Arabia on Thursday (AP)
Christian Horner during a news conference in Saudi Arabia on Thursday (AP)

His wife, former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell-Horner, was pictured by his side at the season opener in Bahrain at the weekend.

The couple, at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, were pictured smiling, holding hands and kissing. They married in 2015 and share a son, Montague George Hector Horner.

WhatsApp messages apparently exchanged by Horner and the female colleague were leaked to 149 F1 figures. Horner had always denied the accusations.

Horner, who continues to operate in his role as team principal and CEO, said he was “absolutely confident” he would stay on as Red Bull boss for the remainder of the season.

But it is understood there is considerable unease among the team's plethora of sponsors and partners.

Max Verstappen stood by his father Jos, saying "he is not a liar" following his claim that Red Bull could explode if Horner remains as team principal.

Verstappen's manager Raymond Vermeulen met with Horner earlier this week in an attempt to clear the air at the crisis-hit team. Neither Max, nor Jos, were present.

A statement from Red Bull GmbH last Wednesday 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.”