Formula 1: Enemies in your own team? - Lots of unanswered questions at Red Bull

An angry father, divided camps and in the middle of it all, the currently outstanding driver in Formula 1, who for some has already been confirmed as the new world champion after the start in Bahrain.

Formula 1: Enemies in your own team? - Lots of unanswered questions at Red Bull

An angry father, divided camps and in the middle of it all, the currently outstanding driver in Formula 1, who for some has already been confirmed as the new world champion after the start in Bahrain.

Max Verstappen, of all people, gets caught up in the turmoil of a power struggle at Red Bull that has apparently already escalated in the dispute over team boss Christian Horner. The next chapter is looming this week before the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Who are the two camps?

On one side there is Horner, 50 years old, British, team boss since Red Bull joined in 2005. Not one to avoid conflict. Horner knows how politics is done in the premier class of motorsport. He was the best man of the former and super-powerful Formula 1 managing director Bernie Ecclestone for many years and was previously considered his successor. Horner is reportedly supported by the Thai majority owners of Red Bull. Billionaire Chalerm Yoovidhya even traveled to Bahrain with his wife at the weekend - definitely a sign, as he hasn't been to a race that often.

On the other hand, Red Bull's motorsport consultant Helmut Marko and the Verstappens form the opposing camp. Marko, 80 years old and also since joining, was a close confidant of Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz, who died in October 2022. Marko is also Red Bull's talent scout and promoter. "The doctor's school," the in-house magazine once headlined: Sebastian Vettel and Verstappen went through the tough apprenticeship with a doctor of law. Marko is also very familiar with the microcosm of the paddock; he also knows which maneuvers trigger which effects.

Why is it escalating now?

There was already talk of a power struggle last year. Horner allegedly wanted to get rid of Marko. After Mateschitz's death, he is said to have tried to expand his sphere of power. "I have a contract until the end of 2024, and in the end it is the shareholders' decision, not Christian Horner's, and ultimately it is me who decides," emphasized Marko at the time. The team operates with an Austrian license, but its home base is Milton Keynes in England, not far from Horner's home.

After Horner faced an allegation from an employee, which was dismissed following an external investigation, his opponents appear to be taking advantage of the already delicate situation. Two emails that were sent anonymously to team bosses and those responsible at Formula 1 and the World Automobile Association, among others, brought the matter of Horner's allegedly inappropriate behavior to the forefront more than ever. According to father and former racing driver Jos Verstappen, the team is on the verge of explosion.

What role does Max Verstappen play?

According to a report by the British BBC, FIA boss Mohammed Ben Sulayem in Bahrain asked Verstappen for public support for Horner. The 26-year-old three-time world champion had not previously spoken out against his team boss, but his words also had tendencies of slowed down support.

Max Verstappen is - whether he likes it or not - also his father's means of pressure. A premature departure would be a total loss for the team, both in terms of image and sport. His contract is valid until the end of 2028. The fact that father Jos once talked to Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff in Bahrain made many people's imaginations blossom. Because: After this season, the cockpit of record world champion Lewis Hamilton will be free at the German works team and he will move to Ferrari.

That means, firstly: Mercedes needs a replacement and the extremely clever Wolff had ruled out practically nothing after Hamilton's change announcement. Why should he? But that also means secondly: Despite his outstanding qualities, Verstappen doesn't have that many options if he were to actually change. Ferrari is already fully booked with Hamilton and Charles Leclerc in 2025. In purely sporting terms, anything other than continuing his career at Red Bull would - as of now - be a step backwards.

What's next?

There are a few variants: Horner could resign in the face of pressure. Whether he is the type for that: very questionable. Jos Verstappen could withdraw his more or less blatant demand for a replacement at the top of the team. This possibility is also very questionable. The Thai majority owners could have their say - but peace and harmony would probably look different afterwards. Or Max Verstappen could bring both camps to their senses. The question is whether he wants that.

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