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Horner's top job at Red Bull 'untenable' now - Schumacher

Horner's top job at Red Bull 'untenable' now - Schumacher
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Ralf Schumacher suspects Mercedes and the Verstappen camp are "already in negotiations" for a sensational switch from Red Bull to Mercedes.

Ralf Schumacher suspects Mercedes and the Verstappen camp are "already in negotiations" for a sensational switch from Red Bull to Mercedes.

In Bahrain, the embattled Christian Horner orchestrated the appearance of unity, support and harmony - amid a scandal and alleged affair with a female staff member that threatens to end his entire Formula 1 career.

"Does Formula 1 need this Horner case?" wondered veteran Blick journalist Roger Benoit. "No, if it's just rumours and speculation. Yes, if grievances and misconduct are uncovered."

Officially, Red Bull has exonerated team boss Horner for alleged contract-breaching bad behaviour, with the team now trying to close the book on the matter.

"There is no issue and we are focusing on the racing," a spokesman for the team said. "The team is united."

But it certainly didn't look united upon closer inspection behind the scenes in Bahrain, with Horner and Jos Verstappen - Max Verstappen's father - locked in several one-on-one heated discussions in the paddock.

Jos was also seen chatting to Toto Wolff - a former nemesis from the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP fiasco - immediately after Saturday's race, with the Mercedes boss answering "Everything is possible" when asked about the possibility of the triple world champion leaving Red Bull for 2025.

"To me, that means they are already in negotiations," former F1 driver Ralf Schumacher told Sky Deutschland. "That's plan B if everything else falls apart."

There are now rumours that Jos, who denied the charge on Saturday when he told the Daily Mail that he wants Horner to quit, also knows the unnamed female at the centre of the allegations personally.

"That (email) leak was sent to all the most important people in Formula 1," Schumacher said. "You have to get them first. This is a classic political murder."

Another rumour is that FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem asked Verstappen, 26, to come out and publicly support Horner's ongoing status at the top of Red Bull Racing.

Max apparently said no.

"Horner is now required to draw conclusions," Schumacher said. "I believe that when you see how bad the mood is against him, he is untenable and should resign in the interests of the team."

Ralf said he noticed in parc ferme that Red Bull is now visibly divided into two camps - with the Verstappens, Dr Helmut Marko and even Adrian Newey on one side, and Horner and Red Bull's majority Thai shareholder on the other.

"The danger is quite simply that some parties now want to leave and look for new things, new teams, new tasks," Schumacher surmised.

He also thinks Thai co-owner Chalerm Yoovidhya, who like Horner was in Bahrain with his own wife, should recognise that it "makes no sense to hold on to Christian Horner".

Interestingly, as the Horner affair continues to publicly draw in additional figures including himself, Wolff has now stepped away to a degree in the most recent hours.

"Let's see where this goes in the next few days," the Mercedes boss told Austrian broadcaster ORF. "I would very much hope that the governing body and the commercial rights holder set the compass right.

"I am probably not doing any good to the whole issue, because then it could be seen as this just being about a power fight within Formula 1," Wolff added. "That's why it should not be in the team's (Red Bull's) hands.

"It's a much bigger topic than that and I don't want to diminish the whole situation by making it seem like the Mercedes guy is talking about the Red Bull guy."

Even more fascinating is that not long after adding fuel to the Verstappen-to-Mercedes narrative, Wolff is now playing down the likelihood of it actually happening.

"I think the driver will always choose the quickest car," he said. "That is fundamentally what it's all about. At the moment, the Red Bull is the quickest car so that will always be the priority in my opinion."

Finally, Dutch media now report that, prior to the leak of Horner's communications with the woman, Red Bull actually drafted a press release about his departure from the team - perhaps for health reasons.

The Thai shareholder then stepped in, vetoing the release of the statement - and triggering the next episode in the saga.

The most authoritative British specialist media source in F1 believes Jos Verstappen's actions might ultimately be about triggering an exit clause in his son's contract - opening up the possibility for more influence and flexibility.

"In the meantime, the credibility of Formula 1 suffers as a result," Blick's Benoit concluded.

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner ahead of practice on November 17, 2023
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