Voices: I feel for Geri – the Christian Horner allegations show how it’s harder than ever to recover from ‘digital infidelity’

Despite being a huge Formula One fan, I couldn’t help but feel far more interested in whether Geri Halliwell would fly out to Bahrain this weekend, rather than who made pole position on the track.

Let’s face it, we all were, weren’t we?

Unless you’ve been on a social media detox for the past few days, you couldn’t fail to have spotted the drama unfolding in the wake of the investigation by Red Bull into allegations of “inappropriate behaviour” brought by a female colleague against Christian Horner. Allegations he has been resolute in denying.

Unfortunately for Horner, despite being cleared of any wrongdoing by his employer, things didn’t go completely quiet. In fact, they got very noisy indeed, when – 24 hours before the first race of the season – a file containing a series of explosive WhatsApp messages was sent anonymously to F1 bosses and members of the media.

I managed to get hold of the file early on and it looked, to the casual observer, like cold, hard evidence of some kind of relationship conducted between two people over time. To be clear, those messages still haven’t been verified. But there’s a lot in there that would seem to tie Horner to particular times and places, making it fairly easy to fact-check if someone decided to trawl through them.

Horner hasn’t commented on the messages, which perhaps in itself is interesting after he previously vehemently denied everything.

So, as we all tried to absorb the (highly unshocking) news that a man in sport in a position of power may have been taking advantage of a female in a more junior position, thoughts naturally then turned to Horner’s wife: none other than former Spice Girl, Halliwell. And Spice Girls have history in this kind of situation. Roll back to 2003 and it was Halliwell’s bandmate, Victoria Beckham, dealing with an equally infamous alleged episode of cheating by her husband.

Among all the partners of F1 bosses and drivers, Geri’s is one of the more ubiquitous faces seen flying around the world attending races. Last season, she could be regularly observed by Horner’s side in the Red Bull pre-race paddock, and would often be the first person ready to congratulate Horner with open arms after a Max Verstappen win on the track.

She always looked genuinely excited about being there, and visibly proud of the job her husband was doing as boss of the Red Bull team.

So when news of the WhatsApp messages broke, allegedly sent by Horner, the rumours instantly began to swirl: would Geri fly out to Bahrain to show a united front with her husband? Or would she remain at home in what might be construed as a show of disapproval and rejection?

Well, she decided (I suspect guided by advice from friends, family and PR advisers) to hop on a private jet and deal with things head-on. Personally, I think this was the right thing to do. Despite all eyes being on the couple, Geri at least showed she was taking some kind of control over the whole sorry situation.

As I watched them stride out in a carefully orchestrated attempt at a show of unity, I couldn’t help but notice the tight grip Horner had on her tiny hand. A physical indication of support? Or maybe a sign of fear? Who knows what conversations they’d been having behind closed doors that day?

But that image made me consider the impact of “digital infidelity” these days. Isn’t it so much more common? And how on earth do you go about recovering from it when the evidence is so undeniable?

I can think of many examples of people I know who’ve dabbled in digital infidelity – by which I mean there’s not necessarily a physical aspect to the relationship, instead, it’s carried out over WhatsApp, email, text message or through direct messages on social media. What starts out as an innocent exchange of messages between two people turns, over time, into a more dangerous flirtation. But let’s be clear – it’s only “dangerous” when one or other of the parties is already in a relationship.

Do we think Geri has read the messages? I know I would want to. And if she has, she’s faced with a very real and confronting problem. No longer is she reliant on Horner’s description of the alleged relationship. Now, like all of us, she can see exactly the kind of relationship it was, which all means that if true, Horner now has nowhere to hide.

Couple all this with a world in which we’re all far more savvy about maintaining breadcrumb trails – we’ve all taken screenshots of conversations we want to save for future reference. Popping those into a file and sending them on to someone else really isn’t that difficult. Meaning that while it’s so much easier to conduct online relationships, it’s also so much easier to get found out.

The ability for Geri to read those intimate messages sent by her husband makes it so much harder for the relationship to recover. Doubtless, she will forever have some of those unforgettable phrases floating around her head. And I’m pretty sure she’ll never buy a box of Coco Pops again.

So it will be fascinating to observe how the Horners rebuild from here. It sounds like Geri is laying down some serious ground rules for her husband to follow which, along with the public display of “togetherness” in Bahrain, would seem to indicate they both see a future in their marriage. But I can’t help but imagine how Geri will feel as they move forward together.