Christian Horner’s accuser has been suspended following Red Bull’s investigation into “inappropriate behaviour” against the Formula One team principal, the PA news agency understands.

Horner, 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.

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

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

Horner, who has always denied the claims made against him, is due to back in the spotlight in an official FIA press conference at 6:30pm local time (3:30pm GMT) in Saudi Arabia on Thursday.

Following last weekend’s season-opening race in Bahrain, Horner said he was “absolutely confident” he would stay on as Red Bull boss for the remainder of the season.

Lewis Hamilton believes that Max Verstappen is a serious contender to replace him at Mercedes next season.

A vacancy has opened up at the Silver Arrows following Hamilton’s shock decision to join Ferrari.

The apparent division at Red Bull – following the very public spat between team principal Christian Horner and Verstappen’s father, Jos – has led to speculation that the Dutch driver, despite being under contract until 2028, could quit the team which has carried him to the past three world championships.

“My move has shown that anything is possible,” said Hamilton ahead of this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. “I know and I am sure Max is on the list.”

Hamilton and Verstappen’s relationship soured in 2021 as they fought for the world title – with Verstappen taking the championship following a deeply contentious end to the season decider in Abu Dhabi. Tensions were also high between Mercedes and Red Bull.

But Hamilton continued: “I wouldn’t say I am surprised that he is being considered. He is a great driver.

“And Max in that moment did what he had to do. It was nothing on him. It was the sport that let us down and that wasn’t his fault. If I was in his position I would have done the same thing, so there are no issues there.

“If you run a team you want the best driver and a driver that brings in the eyeballs and brings in the sponsorship and he is one of those. I understand it but it wouldn’t make sense for him, but it will be interesting to see.

“George (Russell) is an integral part of this team and he will be here for the long haul. He is doing a great job and he will grow to be a leader of this team so it will be interesting to see what their relationship looks like but I am sure they will work it out.

“It will definitely be a strong line-up.”

Earlier, Russell said he would welcome the challenge of going up against Verstappen, who has won 18 of the last 19 races and is the overwhelming favourite to claim another victory in Jeddah on Saturday night.

“This is my third season alongside Lewis, the greatest of all time and I feel like I have done a pretty good job alongside him,” said Russell.

“So, whoever were to line up alongside me, I welcome the challenge.

“You want to go against the best. I believe I can beat anybody on the grid. Having Lewis as my benchmark has been a good benchmark for sure.

“Any team wants to have the best driver line-up possible and right now Max is the best driver on the grid.

“If any team had a chance to sign Max they would 100 per cent be taking it but the question is on his side and Red Bull’s side and we don’t know what is truly going on behind closed doors and it is none of our business. But it would be exciting.”

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

Speaking ahead of this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Verstappen was asked if his father regretted his remarks, which not only cast further doubt over Horner’s future, but of his son.

“I have not asked him that but my dad, from how I know him in go-karting, is very outspoken and he is not a liar, that is for sure.

“My dad and I are very close. We call every day.”

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.

And Verstappen added: “I don’t see myself in F1 without them (his father and manager) by my side.”

George Russell has said he would welcome the exciting challenge of going up against Max Verstappen at Mercedes.

Verstappen has won 18 of the last 19 races but his future at Red Bull is in the spotlight after his father Jos Verstappen called on team principal Christian Horner to be dismissed.

The apparent division at Red Bull has led to speculation that Verstappen, 26, could leave if Horner remains in his post – and Mercedes have refused to rule out a move for the triple world champion.

A vacancy has opened up at the Silver Arrows for 2025 following Lewis Hamilton’s shock decision to join Ferrari next season.

“This is my third season alongside Lewis, the greatest of all time, and I feel like I have done a pretty good job alongside him,” said Russell.

“So, whoever were to line up alongside me, I welcome the challenge.

“You want to go against the best. I am focused on myself but I believe I can beat anybody on the grid. Having Lewis as my benchmark has been a good benchmark for sure.”

Verstappen’s current deal with Red Bull runs until 2028.

Russell continued: “Any team wants to have the best driver line-up possible and right now Max is the best driver on the grid.

“If any team had a chance to sign Max they would 100 per cent be taking it, but the question is on his side and Red Bull’s side and we don’t know what is truly going on behind closed doors and it is none of our business, but it would be exciting.”

Russell was speaking ahead of this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and only a handful of days after Verstappen Snr cast doubt over his son’s Red Bull seat.

Verstappen Snr 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 will face the media in Jeddah later on Wednesday, while Horner, who held clear-the air-talks with his star driver’s manager Raymond Vermeulen earlier this week, will be in Thursday’s FIA team principals’ press conference.

Formula One’s governing body has broken its silence on claims surrounding president Mohammed Ben Sulayem by admitting a report “detailing potential allegations involving certain members of its governing body” exists.

Ben Sulayem is reportedly under investigation for interfering with the result of last year’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and attempting to block the certification of the Las Vegas Grand Prix.

F1’s regulator said in a statement on Tuesday: “The FIA confirms that the compliance officer has received a report detailing potential allegations involving certain members of its governing bodies.

“The compliance department is assessing these concerns, as is common practice in these matters, to ensure that due process is meticulously followed.”

According to the BBC, a report by motorsport governing body’s compliance officer Paolo Basarri to the ethics committee says Ben Sulayem acted to overturn a penalty given to Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso at the 2023 Saudi Grand Prix.

A BBC report published on Monday claims a whistleblower alleged Ben Sulayem called Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa – FIA vice-president for sport for the Middle East and North Africa region, who was in Saudi Arabia for the race in an official capacity – and made it clear he thought Alonso’s penalty should be revoked.

The removal of Alonso’s 10-second penalty, imposed for work done on his car while he was serving a previous five-second penalty, returned him to the podium behind Red Bull duo Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen, after the sanction had dropped him to fourth.

At the time there was no suggestion there was anything untoward with the decision after Aston Martin’s sporting director Andy Stevenson had put the team’s case to stewards in a right of review.

On Tuesday a further allegation – also published in a BBC report – said Ben Sulayem had told officials not to certify the Las Vegas circuit for its Grand Prix last year.

An FIA spokesperson told the BBC: “From a sporting and safety perspective, the Las Vegas circuit approval followed FIA protocol in terms of inspection and certification.

“If you recall, there was a delay in the track being made available for inspection due to ongoing local organiser construction works.”

Red Bull’s controversy-hit Formula One team will be back in the spotlight on Wednesday when superstar driver Max Verstappen faces the media for this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The triple world champion, whose father, Jos, claimed Red Bull will “explode” if team principal Christian Horner is not removed from his post, is due to answer questions in Jeddah on Wednesday.

Verstappen, 26, will not appear in the FIA’s official press conference to preview the second round of the Formula One season, but he is set to face questions – as per his normal media duties – at Red Bull’s hospitality suite.

Horner, who is understood to currently be in Dubai with wife Geri, is set to be back on the Red Bull pit wall for practice on Thursday.

He will also feature alongside a number of other F1 team principals in an FIA press conference between practice sessions at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

Horner, 50, held clear-the air-talks with Verstappen’s manager Raymond Vermeulen in Dubai on Monday.

Neither Max nor his father were present at the summit which took place after Verstappen Snr claimed that Red Bull “is in danger of being torn apart”.

A source told the PA news agency that discussions between Horner and Vermeulen “went well”.

The intra-team tensions will be eased in Saudi Arabia, with Verstappen Snr absent as he participates in a Belgian rally.

Verstappen’s victory in Bahrain was overshadowed by continued controversy surrounding Horner.

Following the race Horner said he was “absolutely confident” he would stay on as Red Bull boss for the remainder of the season.

Horner has faced intense scrutiny in recent weeks following allegations made against him by a female colleague. He has always denied the claims.

Verstappen has won 18 of the last 19 F1 races and will be the favourite to claim another victory on Saturday night – despite the ongoing controversy surrounding Red Bull.

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem is reportedly under investigation for allegedly interfering with the result of a Formula One race.

According to the BBC, a report by motorsport governing body’s compliance officer Paolo Basarri to the ethics committee says Ben Sulayem acted to overturn a penalty given to Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso at the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The PA news agency has contacted the FIA, but it is understood that because matters like this rest with the ethics committee, an independent body, the FIA is unlikely to offer any comment while any due process runs its course.

The BBC report claims a whistleblower alleged Ben Sulayem called Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa – FIA vice-president for sport for the Middle East and North Africa region, who was in Saudi Arabia for the race in an official capacity – and made it clear he thought Alonso’s penalty should be revoked.

The removal of Alonso’s 10-second penalty, imposed for work done on his car while he was serving a previous five-second penalty, returned him to the podium behind Red Bull duo Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen, after the sanction had dropped him to fourth.

At the time there was no suggestion there was anything untoward with the decision after Aston Martin’s sporting director Andy Stevenson had put the team’s case to stewards in a right of review.

Christian Horner staged a face-to-face meeting with Max Verstappen’s representative in Dubai on Monday in a bid to iron out escalating tensions at Red Bull.

The summit was held 48 hours after Verstappen’s father, Jos, said Red Bull would “explode” if Horner remained in his role as team principal.

The PA news agency understands that neither Jos or his son, Max, were present, with Verstappen’s manager Raymond Vermeulen acting on the Dutch driver’s behalf.

A source told PA the talks “went well”. Senior Red Bull figures were also said to be present. The next grand prix takes place in Saudi Arabia on Saturday.

Verstappen’s victory at the opening round of the season last weekend in Bahrain was overshadowed by continued controversy surrounding Horner.

Following the race Horner said he was “absolutely confident” he would stay on as Red Bull boss for the remainder of the season after overseeing Verstappen lead a one-two finish from team-mate Sergio Perez.

Horner has faced intense scrutiny in recent weeks following allegations made against him by a female colleague. Horner has always denied the claims.

But, speaking to the Daily Mail, Verstappen Snr 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.”

Responding to Verstappen Snr’s comments, a Red Bull Racing spokesperson said: “There are no issues here. The team are united and we are focused on racing.”

Reigning world champion Max Verstappen opened the 2024 Formula One season with another commanding victory but it is the controversy surrounding his Red Bull team that provided the headlines in Bahrain.

Team principal Christian Horner has faced intense scrutiny following allegations made against him by a female colleague – claims he has always denied – and the drama continued to unfold in the paddock at the season opener.

With claims and counter-claims coming from different names in and around the Red Bull garage, the issue will now roll on into the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix this weekend.

Here, the PA news agency answers some of the key questions that hang over the ongoing situation.

Where did all of this start?

Red Bull Racing’s parent company Red Bull GmbH announced on February 5 that Horner was being investigated following an accusation of “inappropriate behaviour” by a female colleague. Horner emphatically denied the claim and the 50-year-old stayed on as team principal after Red Bull confirmed that the grievance has been dismissed last week. But, just 24 hours later, messages and a number of images apparently exchanged between Horner and the complainant were sent from an anonymous email account to 149 members of the F1 paddock – including FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem, F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali and the grid’s nine other team principals, as well as members of the media – on the eve of race in Bahrain.

What did Horner have to say about the email?

The Red Bull boss, who is married to former Spice Girl Geri, released a statement as news of the anonymous email broke. “I will not comment on anonymous speculation, but to reiterate I have always denied the allegations,” it read. “I respected the integrity of the independent investigation and fully co-operated 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.” Horner was then questioned several times while in the paddock but refused to speak on the subject.

What impact did it have on the team over the race weekend?

On the surface, at least, very little. Verstappen put his Red Bull on pole position and bar an early charge from the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, the Dutchman never looked like being challenged on race day. He did, however, say after qualifying that Horner had been “a little bit distracted” and was twice asked if he had full confidence in his boss – not offering a definitive answer to either question.

Race won, case closed?

Not at all, no. Not only does the complainant have a right to appeal against the decision to allow Horner to continue but Verstappen’s father – former F1 driver Jos – has said he believes the situation “is driving people apart”. Having been close to his son for all of his three championship wins, Jos does wield some power and his words could worry those within the Red Bull set-up as they look to keep their all-conquering title winner happy. “There is tension here while he (Horner) remains in position,” Verstappen Snr told the Daily Mail. “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.” Red Bull later dismissed such claims, telling the PA news agency the team remains “united”.

So what happens next?

The teams are currently preparing for the second race of the new season in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Verstappen will face the media on Wednesday where he will no doubt be asked about his father’s comments. His reply to such questions could set the tone for the weekend as Horner will once again aim to keep things focused on the track rather than a situation away from it that does not seem to be going away any time soon.

Formula One’s crisis-hit Red Bull team insists it remains “united” after Max Verstappen’s father, Jos, claimed it is “in danger of being torn apart” if Christian Horner remains in his role.

A defiant Horner has said he is “absolutely confident” he will stay on as Red Bull boss for the remainder of the season after overseeing Verstappen lead a one-two finish from team-mate Sergio Perez at the opening round in Bahrain.

Horner has faced intense scrutiny in recent weeks following allegations against him made by a female colleague. Horner has always denied the claims.

But speaking to the Daily Mail newspaper following Saturday’s 57-lap race, Verstappen Snr 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.”

Responding to Verstappen Snr’s comments, a Red Bull Racing spokesperson told the PA news agency on Sunday: “There are no issues here. The team are united and we are focused on racing.”

During an extraordinary week in Bahrain, Horner was exonerated by Red Bull Racing’s parent company, Red Bull GmbH, following an internal probe into allegations of “inappropriate behaviour”.

But hundreds of WhatsApp messages, appearing to be exchanged between Horner and the complainant, were then leaked to the F1 world.

Verstappen Snr, who is not an employee of Red Bull Racing, has been accused in some quarters of attempting to oust Horner from his job.

But the 51-year-old father of Red Bull’s three-time world champion continued: “That wouldn’t make sense. Why would I do that when Max is doing so well here?”

Horner strode hand-in-hand with wife Geri in the paddock one hour and 45 minutes before Saturday’s race.

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.

Speaking after the chequered flag had fallen, Horner was asked if he is confident he will stay on as Red Bull team principal for the rest of the season. He replied: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

He continued: “I have the support of an incredible family, an incredible wife, an incredible team and everybody within that team.

“And my focus is on going racing, winning races, and doing the best I can.

“It was a day about starting the season in the best possible way. My focus is on this team, my family, my wife and racing.”

Horner was also quizzed about the leaked Google file which was sent from an anonymous email account to 149 members of the F1 paddock – including FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem, F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali and the grid’s nine other team principals, as well as members of the media.

“I am not going to comment on anonymous speculative messages from an unknown source,” Horner said. “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 (on Saturday) demonstrates where the focus is and we move onwards.

“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.”

Horner is set to be back in the spotlight on Thursday when the cars hit the track in practice for the next round in Saudi Arabia.

Christian Horner’s leadership has been cast into fresh doubt after Max Verstappen’s father, Jos, claimed Red Bull is “in danger of being torn apart” if the under-fire team principal remains in his role.

A defiant Horner said on Saturday night that he is “absolutely confident” he will stay on as Red Bull boss for the remainder of the Formula One season after overseeing Verstappen lead a one-two finish from team-mate Sergio Perez at the opening round in Bahrain.

Horner’s job has faced intense scrutiny in recent weeks following allegations against him made by a female colleague. Horner has always denied the claims.

But speaking to the Daily Mail newspaper, Verstappen Snr 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.”

During an extraordinary week in Bahrain, Horner was exonerated by Red Bull Racing parent’s company, Red Bull GmbH, following an internal probe into allegations of “inappropriate behaviour”.

But hundreds of WhatsApp messages, appearing to be exchanged between Horner and the complainant, were then leaked to the F1 world.

Verstappen Snr has been accused in some quarters of attempting to oust Horner from his job.

But the 51-year-old father of Red Bull’s three-time world champion continued: “That wouldn’t make sense. Why would I do that when Max is doing so well here?”

The PA news agency has approached Red Bull Racing for comment.

Horner strode hand-in-hand with wife Geri in the paddock one hour and 45 minutes before Saturday’s race.

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.

Speaking after the chequered flag had fallen, Horner was asked if he is confident he will stay on as Red Bull team principal for the rest of the season. He replied: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

He continued: “I have the support of an incredible family, an incredible wife, an incredible team and everybody within that team.

“And my focus is on going racing, winning races, and doing the best I can.

“It was a day about starting the season in the best possible way. My focus is on this team, my family, my wife and racing.”

Horner was also quizzed about the leaked Google file which was sent from an anonymous email account to 149 members of the F1 paddock – including FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem, F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali and the grid’s nine other team principals, as well as members of the media.

Horner said: “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.

“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.”

Horner is set to be back in the spotlight in just four days when the cars hit the track in practice for the next round in Saudi Arabia.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has urged Formula One and its governing body to “set the compass right” amid continued controversy surrounding Christian Horner.

Horner was earlier this week cleared to continue as Red Bull team principal following an internal probe into “inappropriate behaviour” towards a female colleague.

But the 50-year-old faced subsequent scrutiny after a series of leaked WhatsApp messages –  appearing to be exchanged between him and his complainant – were leaked to all the major players in the sport.

FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem told the Financial Times on Friday that the turmoil is “damaging the sport on a human level”. F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali has not commented on the matter.

Earlier this week, Wolff called for greater transparency from Red Bull Racing’s parent company, Red Bull GmbH, who conducted the investigation.

The Austrian corporation said it was confident the inquiry into Horner had been “fair, rigorous and impartial” and added that the report – understood to stretch to 150 pages – is “confidential”. Horner has always denied the claims.

“Let’s see where it goes in the next days,” said Wolff on Saturday night. “I would very much hope that the governing body, the sanctioning body and the commercial rights’ holder sets the compass right.

“But the moment I start to continue to question how this has been handled, I am probably not doing any good to the whole issue, because then it could be seen as this just being about a power fight within F1.

“That’s why I think it’s not in the team’s hands. It’s a much bigger topic than that and I don’t want to diminish the whole situation by making it seem like the Mercedes guy is talking about the Red Bull guys.”

Wolff was speaking after a disappointing opening race of the season for his Mercedes team at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

George Russell started third and finished fifth – 47 seconds behind winner Max Verstappen – with Lewis Hamilton taking the chequered flag in seventh, 50 sec adrift.

Wolff continued: “Max is in a different league, a different galaxy. We just have to acknowledge his performance levels.

“But I believe that the group of Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes were probably in a similar ballpark. We just need to look at ourselves, get on top of our problems and if we are able to manage our race weekend better, we will be racing those guys.”

Christian Horner said he is “absolutely confident” he will ride out the storm of his life and remain as Red Bull team principal for the rest of the season.

The build-up to the first round of the Formula One campaign here in Bahrain has been overshadowed by allegations whirling around Horner.

But the 50-year-old, who was joined by his wife Geri in a defiant show of unity ahead of Saturday’s 57-lap race, can take temporary relief from seeing Max Verstappen lead a Red Bull one-two, with Sergio Perez second.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz crossed the line in third, one place ahead of team-mate Charles Leclerc, with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton a disappointing fifth and seventh respectively for Mercedes.

Asked if he is confident he will stay on as Red Bull team principal for the rest of the season, Horner replied: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

During an extraordinary week in the Gulf kingdom, Horner was exonerated by Red Bull Racing parent’s company, Red Bull GmbH, on Wednesday following an internal probe into allegations of “inappropriate behaviour” made by a female colleague.

But hundreds of WhatsApp messages, appearing to be exchanged between him and the complainant, were then leaked to the F1 world.

Horner has remained steadfast throughout, and strode hand-in-hand with Geri along the paddock one hour and 45 minutes before the lights went out.

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

Horner planted a kiss on wife Geri before he headed to the Red Bull pit wall to watch his team blow away their rivals. Geri later headed to the garage to watch the race.

The pair stood together smiling underneath the podium as Verstappen celebrated his 18th win from the past 19 races.

An emotional Horner continued: “I have the support of an incredible family, an incredible wife, an incredible team and everybody within that team.

“And my focus is going racing, winning racing and doing the best I can.

“It was a day about starting the season in the best possible way. My focus is on this team, my family, my wife and racing.”

Horner was also quizzed about the leaked Google file which was sent from an anonymous email account to 149 members of the F1 paddock – including FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem, F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali and the grid’s nine other team principals, as well as members of the media.

Horner said: “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.

“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.”

Horner is set to be back in the spotlight in just five days when the cars hit the track in practice for the next round in Saudi Arabia.

Max Verstappen delivered for Christian Horner’s crisis-hit Red Bull team by winning the opening race of the Formula One season in Bahrain on Saturday.

The build-up to the first round of the campaign here in the Gulf Kingdom has totally been overshadowed by allegations whirling around Red Bull team principal Horner.

But Horner, who was joined by his wife Geri in a show of unity ahead of Saturday’s 57-lap race, can take temporary relief from seeing Verstappen lead a Red Bull one-two, with Sergio Perez second.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz took the chequered flag in third, one place ahead of team-mate Charles Leclerc with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton a disappointing fifth and seventh respectively for Mercedes. McLaren’s Lando Norris finished sixth.

During an extraordinary week in Bahrain, Horner was exonerated by Red Bull Racing parent’s company, Red Bull GmbH, on Wednesday following an internal probe into allegations of “inappropriate made by a female colleague.

Hundreds of WhatsApp messages appearing to be written by him were then leaked to the F1 world a day later.

Horner has remained defiant throughout and put on a show of unity with his Spice Girl wife Geri, as they strode hand-in-hand along the paddock one hour and 45 minutes before the lights went out.

Red Bull’s majority shareholder and Horner ally, Thai billionaire Chalerm Yoovidhya, joined the duo on the team’s terrace in another public show of support for Horner.

Horner planted a kiss on wife Geri before he headed to pit wall to watch his team blow away their rivals.

Verstappen has raced to the past three world championships and his crushing streak looks set to continue into 2024 following a commanding lights-to-flag win.

The Dutch driver saw off team-mate Perez’s challenge by 22.4 seconds to take his 18th win from the last 19 F1 races and, remarkably, his 36th victory since Hamilton last won a grand prix.

“Great start to the year, guys, a one-two finish, as well so fantastic,” said Verstappen over the team radio.

Horner replied: “As you say, Max, pole-position, one-two finish, fastest lap, a clean sweep. A brilliant way to start the year. Thanks very much.”

Such was Red Bull’s stranglehold on last season’s championship, that they were afforded the luxury of turning their attention to this year’s machine earlier than their competitors.

And revered designer Adrian Newey appears to have built a car which could take Verstappen to another stratosphere.

After holding off the challenge from Ferrari’s Leclerc on the run down to the opening corner, his victory never appeared in doubt. By the end of lap 11, Verstappen had already pulled 10 seconds clear.

Behind, Russell was on the move – taking second from Leclerc on the third lap in an encouraging start for the Mercedes man.

But that would be as good as it got for the Silver Arrows, with Perez moving ahead of Russell on the exit of Turn 4 on lap 14 before Sainz gazumped the British driver for third three laps later.

Hamilton started ninth and was making little early progress, complaining on lap 25 that his seat was broken.

He started to make his way through the field, getting past McLaren’s Oscar Piastri on lap 35 and then Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin for seventh on lap 39.

But the seven-time world champion, who will join Ferrari next year, made no inroads into Norris ahead before Mercedes’ poor evening was dealt another blow when Leclerc took fourth off Russell with 11 laps to run.

Hamilton finished 50 seconds behind Verstappen.

For Verstappen, it was another emphatic display, with fireworks exploding into the night sky as he cemented his status as the overwhelming favourite to march to another title – despite Red Bull’s ongoing off-track turbulence.

Christian Horner continues to fight for his Formula One career following a string of allegations against the Red Bull team principal.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the key questions surrounding Horner, Red Bull, and the sport.

What were the accusations against Horner?

On February 5, Red Bull Racing’s parent company GmbH confirmed Horner was under investigation following an accusation of “inappropriate behaviour”. The company said it “takes these matters extremely seriously and the investigation will be completed as soon as practically possible”.

Horner denied the claim – made by a female colleague – and remained as team principal and CEO of the Milton Keynes-based team. It is understood the complainant also continued in her role.

How did Red Bull react?

Horner was questioned by a lawyer for eight hours at a secret London location. There was no immediate resolution and Horner subsequently appeared at Red Bull’s car launch on February 15.

He continued to dismiss the allegations. Horner then headed to Bahrain for last week’s three-day test before returning to England, while Red Bull’s Austrian board met to discuss his future.

What was the verdict?

On the eve of this weekend’s curtain raiser – and 23 days after it emerged Horner was under investigation – Red Bull GmBH said the grievance against the 50-year old had been dismissed.

The corporation said it was confident the investigation had been “fair, rigorous and impartial” but added that the report, understood to stretch to 150 pages, is “confidential”. However, a number of senior figures in the sport felt Red Bull’s probe lacked transparency.

So, what happened next?

Twenty-four hours later, a number of messages and images apparently exchanged between Horner and the complainant were sent from an anonymous email account to 149 members of the F1 paddock – including FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem, F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali and the grid’s nine other team principals, as well as members of the media.

What did Horner say?

Horner released a statement saying: “I will not comment on anonymous speculation, but to reiterate I have always denied the allegations.”

He was back in the paddock a day later for qualifying as Max Verstappen took pole position. There was speculation that another damning email leak against Horner would arrive on Friday – but it failed to materialise.

Will the FIA take any action?

It is understood the FIA explored bringing a disrepute charge against Horner – and assessed the legalities of seeking Red Bull to hand over its report – but no action has emerged.

Neither F1, nor its regulator, has commented publicly on the latest allegations. Horner met with both Domenicali and Ben Sulayem on Friday.

And what about Red Bull’s sponsors and partners?

There is thought to be considerable unrest and unease behind the scenes following the latest allegations to hit Horner – but there has been no public comment from Red Bull Racing’s two biggest partners – Ford and Oracle.

Will Horner be on the pit wall for Saturday’s race?

Yes. It is understood Horner remains defiant that he can see out the controversy.

His wife Geri Halliwell flew to Bahrain and could be trackside on Saturday, while Chalerm Yoovidhya, who owns 51 per cent of the Red Bull group, might also be in attendance.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.