March 12, 2024
Richard Foegele

Formula One Smut

It is no laughing matter

With the 2nd Formula One race of the season done and dusted in Saudi Arabia, the focus continues to be on team politics, less on actual racing. We have entered another era of F1 smut.

Of course, the big story is Red Bull and the chaos that is currently surrounding the Team, in particular, the alleged inappropriate behavior of Team Principal Christian Horner towards a female employee.

As with all professional sport, news media can be relentless – tabloids even worse. Smut is selling fast and furious.

So, what do we actually know? What is speculation? Downright gossip?

In early February, Dutch tabloid “De Telegraaf” reported that a complaint had been lodged against Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner by a female team member. As with any large company, Red Bull GMBH (the parent company, not Red Bull F1) moved quickly to appoint an “independent” external barrister to look into the matter; let’s remember, however, that Red Bull hired this person, stretching the definition of “independent”. After a flurry of interviews and a review of available evidence, the employee complaint was dismissed and Horner’s name was cleared … well, maybe. What bet did you have on the outcome?

On the 1st day of Round One of the 2024 F1 Championship in Bahrain, a series of text messages was suddenly released to media, F1 Team Principals and Jos Verstappen (father of reigning World Champion, Max Verstappen). These unconfirmed text messages were said to represent exchanges between Horner and the female Red Bull staff member complainant.

At this point, none of the text messages have been authenticated and are presumed to be fake.

So, now what?

Well, some disparaging comments by Max Verstappen’s father implied that this situation (the  released text messages) “will tear the (Red Bull) Team apart”.

Jos Verstappen is an ex-F1 driver who played a very large role in the development of his son, F1 World Champion Max Verstappen. Should he be publicly commenting about the Christian Horner incident?

A meeting rife with swinging arms between Jos and rival Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff could be construed as an attempt by Verstappen Sr. to try to unseat Horner and introduce further toxicity to the Red Bull Team. Have you thought why he might want to do that?

Horner has been trying to downplay the negative comments made by Jos Verstappen and the relentless media machine while keeping the Red Bull Team focused on winning another Championship for his Drivers.

Where did these leaked text messages come from? Surely not Julian Assange.

Allegations against Red Bull Advisor Helmut Marko regarding recent media leaks were quickly shut down after a meeting with Oliver Mintzlaff (Red Bull GMBH CEO).

Helmut Marko, an ex-F1 driver who is a Red Bull advisor, had his neck in the noose for a short while. Claims that he released unauthorized text messages have been dismissed

As for the female employee who made the allegations against Horner, she has been suspended (with full pay) due to her “dishonest behavior”, with no further explanation provided.

Both Mercedes' Toto Wolff and McLaren's Zak Brown have urged Formula 1 and the FIA (the governing body of the Sport) to review the Red Bull situation. What does that mean? Should Red Bull’s internal business be revealed for all to see? Doubtful, just as both Mercedes and McLaren would be reluctant to drop their pants.

Toto Wolff (Mercedes) and Zak Brown (McLaren) have been vocal about the Christian Horner incident

What needs revealing is: WHODUNIT? Who is behind the release of unauthorised private text messages that were designed to destabilize the Red Bull Team and F1, in general.

“Formula 1 Business”, a mostly sensational motorsport tabloid, printed alleged text messages between Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner and a female employee, knowing full well the damage it might cause

In the past, the FIA has had no trouble dropping a hammer on transgressors - just ask Flavio Briatore (Crash-gate – a staged crash to give Alonso an F1 win) or McLaren (Stepney-gate – McLaren obtained secret technical documents from Ferrari).

Flavio Briatore, Renault Team Boss, orchestrated a crash by his driver, Nelson Piquet Jr., to strategically secure a win by Fernando Alonso. Ultimately, he was thrown out of the Sport

Nigel Stepney was Michael Schumacher’s mechanic at Ferrari. He was accused of giving technical documents to McLaren and promptly fired, eventually sentenced to a year in prison, which was reduced as part of a plea bargain

Perhaps a lifetime ban from F1 might send a message to those who would try to disrupt the Sport. This whole affair is starting to give the appearance of professional wrestling or a bad soap opera at a time when Formula One has done an incredible job of raising its profile globally.

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About the Author

Richard is a life-long motor-racer with experience in photography, filmmaking and engineering. His friends sometimes affectionately call him "Foegepedia" for his knowledge of the sport.

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