WhatsApp leaks pulls Red Bull F1 boss Christian Horner back in eye of the storm

After Red Bull exoneration of F1 team principal Christian Horner, email leak of WhatsApp texts sent to female employee reveals embarrassing detail of alleged inappropriate behaviour

F1 team principal Christian Horner
F1 team principal Christian Horner

Formula 1 returns this week with the opening Bahrain Grand Prix, but events have been overshadowed by a leak of emails purporting to contain images of messages between Christian Horner and the female member of staff who made a complaint against him.

The leak happened less than 24 hours after an internal investigation into Horner for alleged inappropriate behaviour exonerated the Red Bull team principal, dismissing the grievance.

The email, sent from two different email addresses three separate times to some 150 recipients, including journalists, contained 79 images on a Google drive link, including WhatsApp texts between Horner and the female employee whose complaint prompted Red Bull Racing’s parent company Red Bull GmbH to instigate an investigation several weeks ago.

The images were sent under the subject header: “Christian Horner investigation evidence”, with the introduction to the email stating: “Following Red Bull’s recent investigation and statements you will be interested to see the materials attached”.

While the veracity of their content cannot be proven, Horner reasserted his denial of the allegations of inappropriate behaviour. “I won’t comment on anonymous speculation,” he said. “But to reiterate I have always denied the allegations, I respected the integrity of the independent investigation and fully cooperated 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.”

Red Bull GmbH on Wednesday issued a short statement declaring the grievance had been dismissed. The inquiry lasted weeks and is understood to have resulted in a report of 600 pages.

The decision not to release any information led Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff to demand more transparency from the company.

Wolff, who had insisted the investigation should be made public because it reflected on F1 as a whole, declared he did not believe it was satisfactory for the incident to be closed without any disclosure of detail or process. “There is a lady in an organisation that has spoken to HR and said there was an issue, and it was investigated and yesterday, the sport has received the message that it’s all fine, we’ve looked at it,” he said. “I believe with the aspiration as a global sport, on such critical topics, it needs more transparency, and I wonder what the sport’s position is.”

McLaren team principal, Zak Brown added that F1 and the governing body, the FIA, should be given access to the investigation’s findings to reach their own conclusions to ensure the sport was not being brought into disrepute.