Little sport, lots of intrigue: sex, power, stabbings: Formula 1 is once again showing its dirty face

Power struggles and intrigues everywhere: If aliens from Mars or somewhere else made a trip to Earth to watch an exciting Formula 1 race, they would probably be bitterly disappointed if it was only about sport.

Little sport, lots of intrigue: sex, power, stabbings: Formula 1 is once again showing its dirty face

Power struggles and intrigues everywhere: If aliens from Mars or somewhere else made a trip to Earth to watch an exciting Formula 1 race, they would probably be bitterly disappointed if it was only about sport. They would then have flown to Bahrain for the season opener and would have had to experience how the 2021, 2022 and 2023 world champion, the Dutchman Max Verstappen, mercilessly dominated the opening race of the new season: fastest in qualifying, fastest in the race right from the start, Everything was as usual, while the pitiful competition behind them fought for places.

The fight for the world title seems to offer little entertainment, if the first of 24 races (the longest season in history) is anything to go by. Of course, the competition from Mercedes and Ferrari will update their cars again and again throughout the season in order to reduce the gap to the top dogs Red Bull. There will then be a lot of talk about hope and opportunities. It's just stupid that the British-Austrian team continues to tinker with its RB20 car. The end result will be that there will be at most minor shifts within the power structure. The old saying has been true in the formula for years: you can tell winners at the start.

Nevertheless, the aliens would have had a great time attending the race, simply because they would have heard so many stories of envy and resentment, which alone make it worth following Formula 1 at the moment. Such stories have always been a part of racing, but this time two of the most powerful men in Formula 1 take center stage. This hasn't existed in this form before.

Firstly, there is the affair surrounding Red Bull team boss Christian Horner. The married Brit, 50 years old, apparently had a love affair with a Red Bull employee. At some point the woman found the relationship to be invasive; Horner is said to have harassed her in text messages and with photos, so that she complained internally. The Dutch newspaper “De Telegraaf” made the case public, and there has been a lot of fighting ever since. Red Bull hired a (supposedly) neutral lawyer to investigate the matter. The result: The allegations do not justify Horner's dismissal. The “third person,” as it is officially called, has the opportunity to appeal. To this day, Horner denies any wrongdoing. The lawyer's investigation report has so far been kept secret by Red Bull because of the personal rights of those affected, it is said.

The next escalation level followed promptly: An anonymous person sent an email with 79 files to journalists and team bosses. Included: Excerpts from the alleged WhatsApp chats and photos. Whether they are real cannot be verified. Now the whole world knew what lewd text messages Horner had allegedly written to his lover. He, in turn, was seen holding hands with his wife Geri Halliwell (former Spice Girl, that too) at the Grand Prix in Bahrain. Some observers wondered what that was about? The appearance seemed absurd.

At the same time, the father of Red Bull driver Max Verstappen continued to pour fuel on the fire. Jos Verstappen saw the team facing collapse if Horner didn't resign. A public affront. Jos Verstappen has always been seen as Horner's opponent, his son Max held back his statements, but also did not stand in front of the team boss, under whom he won three world titles.

In the background there are said to be two camps at Red Bull. The Horner team includes the Thai owner family Yoovidhya, which holds the majority with 51 percent. The family is said to have played a key role in ensuring that Horner remained in office. On the other side is the Verstappen team, which includes Red Bull Motorsport boss Helmut Marko, which Horner also allegedly wants to get rid of. Rumors immediately arose about Max Verstappen that he wanted to leave Red Bull and flee to Mercedes. The Verstappens and Marko did not deny this.

The other Formula 1 bosses put pressure on the world motorsport association to get the matter resolved. It would be a shame for Formula 1. The desired side effect: you would get rid of a strong competitor. Horner has been in office for 19 years and has won seven drivers' and six constructors' titles. Exit open.

The other story concerns the president of the world motorsport association FIA, Mohammed Ben Sulayem. It has been smoldering for years, flares up with regularity and is currently heading towards a climax. As recently leaked through an anonymous source (!), the FIA's ethics committee is investigating its own boss and other leading members. The FIA ​​was forced to confirm the incident.

There are two allegations: Ben Sulayem is said to have interfered in a decision made by the race stewards at last year's race in Jeddah. They gave Fernando Alonso, one of the big stars of the racing circuit, a time penalty that cost him third place in Saudi Arabia. Ben Sulayem is said to have ensured that the punishment was withdrawn. The second accusation sounds just as outrageous. The man from Dubai allegedly tried to sabotage the Las Vegas Grand Prix. He is said to have suggested to the route inspectors not to open the runway. But they found no complaints. Strangely, during the first free practice session, a manhole cover was so loose that it caused extensive damage to a Ferrari and an Alpine. The lack of security caused a lot of excitement at the time.

A delay or even cancellation would have been a horror scenario for Formula 1. The rights holders Liberty Media spent millions of dollars on land and infrastructure for the Grand Prix in Las Vegas. Las Vegas is supposed to be the prestigious glittering event par excellence, a new Monte Carlo.

The Emirati has been in an ongoing feud with Formula 1 and most team bosses since he took office in 2021. The reason is: Ben Sulayem wanted to allow an eleventh racing team, Andretti Global from the USA. The other racing teams rejected this (they need their approval). It would have cost them money because one partner would have had more of a share in the total income. The two parties have been at war ever since. Ben Sulayem publicly doubted the value of Formula 1, which caused a lot of excitement, and he initiated FIA investigations against Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff and his wife Susie for betrayal of secrets, next to Horner the most powerful and successful team boss in Formula 1. Two days later the world association stopped the matter after all other teams protested.

The ethics committee's investigation will take a few weeks before a result is available. Until then, Formula 1 remains exciting, at least outside the track.

Sources: DPA, "BBC", "Süddeutsche Zeitung", "Motorsport total", "Auto Motor Sport"