Red Bull F1 team boss Christian Horner stays in charge after complaint dismissed

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SAKHIR, Bahrain (AP) — Red Bull dismissed the allegations of misconduct against team principal Christian Horner on Wednesday, closing an investigation that has overshadowed the start of the Formula 1 season.

Horner will remain in charge of the champion F1 team after Red Bull's internal investigation cleared him of alleged misconduct toward a team employee.

The details of the allegations have not been made public but the investigation had been the major talking point in the run-up to this weekend's season-opening race in Bahrain. The Red Bull announcement came shortly after the team drivers had finished their regular pre-race media availability and less than 24 hours before the first practice session.

“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 Red Bull parent company said in a statement.

“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.”

Red Bull won all but one race last season and its driver Max Verstappen is the three-time defending champion.

Horner had remained in his post during the investigation as part of what he called a “business as normal” approach, and was in charge of the team for preseason tests last week, even as he admitted the investigation was a distraction. He had denied wrongdoing.

F1 and the governing body, the FIA, did not immediately respond to requests for comment following Red Bull's statement that the complaint against Horner had been dismissed.

Speaking before the announcement, Mercedes driver and seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton said the investigation into Horner was a test of the sport’s values.

“Any allegations have to be taken very seriously. Obviously we don’t know everything that’s gone on, but it does need to be resolved as it’s hanging over the sport,” Hamilton said. “I think it’s a really important moment for the sport to make sure that we stand true to our values.”

Jim Farley, the CEO of Ford Motor Co., which is set to become Red Bull’s engine supplier in 2026, wrote to the team last week demanding a resolution to the investigation, in a letter seen by The Associated Press.

Rival team principals Toto Wolff of Mercedes and Zak Brown of McLaren last week called for the investigation to be transparent.

The 50-year-old Horner has been Red Bull team principal since it entered F1 as a full constructor in 2005. He has guided the team to six constructors’ championships and seven drivers’ championships during his time there.

Red Bull won four drivers’ titles in a row with Sebastian Vettel from 2010 through 2013, and three titles with Verstappen since 2021.

Horner is married to Geri Halliwell, better known as Ginger Spice of the female pop group The Spice Girls.

Horner’s profile outside F1 was raised by his prominent role in the Netflix docuseries “Drive to Survive” and by his combative relationship with Wolff amid a bitter title fight between Verstappen and Hamilton in 2021.

Verstappen said the investigation has not been a distraction to his bid to win a fourth successive title. The Dutch driver won a record 19 races last season and is widely considered the clear favorite this year, aided by a Red Bull car which has been significantly redesigned.

“I'm very focused on just the performance of the car myself and hopefully it (the investigation) will just be resolved very soon,” Verstappen said Wednesday before Red Bull issued its statement. “It’s a whole team effort that everyone has to stick together and work toward more success and that’s why it’s important to get everything resolved very soon.”

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AP Auto Racing Writer Jenna Fryer in Charlotte, N.C., contributed to this report.

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AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing