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Wolff and Brown call for Red Bull transparency over Horner

NEWS STORY
29/02/2024

Team bosses express unease at Red Bull's failure to be transparent over investigation into Christian Horner's conduct.

While we are used to Toto Wolff and Zak Brown expressing their unhappiness at almost anything involving their Austrian rivals, in terms of this particular matter the pair appear to have a point.

Yesterday's mealy-mouthed statement that the investigation had been concluded and "that the grievance had been dismissed", posed more questions than it answered and left a shadow over all involved.

Speaking today, Wolff and Brown called for greater transparency, a call that is likely to be echoed by others including Ford, the Austrian team's proposed engine partner.

"I read the statement which was pretty basic," said Wolff, "and my personal opinion is that we can't look behind the curtain. At the end of the day, there is a lady in an organisation that has spoken to HR and said there was an issue, and it was investigated.

"Yesterday, the sport received the message that it was 'all fine, we have looked at it' and I believe that as a global sport on such critical topics, it needs more transparency," he added.

"I wonder what the sport's position is," he continued. "We are competitors, we are a team and can have our own opinions, but it is more like a general reaction that we as a sport need to address what is right in that situation.

"As I said, we are being asked questions here as competitors, are we talking as competitors and with the right values, morals based on the speculation. As a sport, we cannot, we cannot afford to leave things in the vague, the opaque on critical topics like this because it is going to catch us out. Because eventually we are in a super transparent world, and eventually things are going to happen, and I think the organisation have looked it at and it is 'Okay and we can move on' and not try to supress it.

"I am not saying this has happened," he insisted, "but we are standing from the outside looking in at statements, press releases and it seems it is not as modern as things are in the real world, but maybe we are in a bubble in Formula 1 and think that is okay."

"From what I've seen, there continues to be a lot of rumours and speculation," added Zak Brown. "I think the sanctioning body has a responsibility and authority to our sport, to our fans. I think all of us in F1 are ambassadors for the sport on and off the track and so I think they need to make sure that things have been fully transparent.

"I don't know what those conversations are but it needs to be thorough, fully transparent and that they come to the same conclusion that has been given by Red Bull," he added. "I think until then, there will continue to be speculation because there are a lot of unanswered questions about the whole process. And I don't think that's healthy for the sport.

"I think it's the responsibility ultimately of the organizers of Formula One, the owners of Formula One, to make sure that all the racing teams and the personnel and the drivers and everyone involved in the sport are operating in a manner in which we all live by. I don't think it's the team's roles and responsibilities."

"I trust that Red Bull has done a strong process, we have to in that circumstance," said James Vowles. "What I want is us as a sport to be proud that we're sitting on several foundations that are of inclusivity, openness and transparency.

"All I asked for in that matter is that we make sure we have faith and trust in all of us as organisations that are working with the same standards."

Meanwhile, insisting that the matter has been dealt with, Horner claims the saga has unified the team.

"I'm just pleased that the process is over," he told Sky Sports. "I obviously can't comment about it, but we're here very much to focus now on the Grand Prix and the season ahead and trying to defend both of our titles.

"Within the team it's never been stronger," he replied when asked if the saga had affected the team.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by flyinglap, 01/03/2024 19:58

"If the leaked messages that have already been published are supposed to be the worst and most damning evidence against Horner, I would say that this is nothing to be concerned of (as per the findings of the internal investigation). Possibly a bit infantile and naive on behalf of Horner to be flirting with a subordinate over WhatsApp (and his wife will be the judge of that), but it looks like he has certainly been induced and encouraged, even baited, by his female colleague. "Honey trap" comes to mind. "

Rating: Negative (-1)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by kenji, 01/03/2024 15:05

"From my perspective it now seems as though the only resolution is a fully backed legal challenge. Very serious alegations have been levelled at an individual who has been fully investigated, privately, and found to be innocent by an eminent Kings Counsel. Selective leaking of what I should think is privileged evidence is now being used to undermine the 'legal' findings issued by the Red Bull company. I do feel that the goalposts have been moved and it's no longer a simple HR issue but rather an attempt to remove Horner entirely from his position in F1. This then begs the question as to who would harbour such a deep seated grudge against Horner and by extension, the team. "

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3. Posted by Spindoctor, 01/03/2024 9:25

"This is getting nasty(nastier?).
It seemed reasonably plausible that a disgruntled employee might make a complaint, to seek either "justice" or perhaps some compensation. The "findings" of the internal investigation unsurprisingly found in favour of Horner, but left the door open for some undefined "appeal" and also of course the right to go to a truly independent Employment Tribunal. This renders it somewhat inconclusive.

However, the "leak" of documents has significantly upped the ante in terms both of organisation & viciousness of intent. With my tinfoil hat in place & properly adjusted I detect the presence of "corporate" fingers in this pie & vigorously stirring the pot, if you'll excuse the mixed metaphor.
Maybe it'll be GDPR investigations which reveal who done what & when...."

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4. Posted by Stitch431, 01/03/2024 8:03

"@Jingle ...That is unless they do know where it's coming from...."

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5. Posted by kenji, 01/03/2024 2:25

"The basis to this whole issue at first seemed to be rather simple. Alleged implied suggestions and innuendo seemed to be the cornerstone of the complaint however that seems to have been rather naive insofar as the latest 'doco dump' suggest that the complainant does not accept the legal interpretation that was delivered. This now throws shade over not only the accused but the very top of the Red Bull hierachy currently in situ. That's not to exclude the KC who conducted the investigation as well. That's rather heavy duty.

The actual list of recipients of the 'dump' also begs the question. Where did that list come from and just who has access to the details? As one source said, the actual email addresses of some of the recipients is a closely held secret! IMO the ultimate target has changed and is now seemingly more complex. The pious responses from both Wolff and Brown are rather illuminating in themselves as this whole saga moves up a notch or two. There are multi motives at play here."

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6. Posted by Ricardo_sanchez, 01/03/2024 1:03

"I don’t really understand why Wolff and Brown didn’t just keep quiet. Their comments add nothing and it would have been a far more dignified approach to take.

Red Bull seems to have gambled that this issue could be quietly put to bed (no pun intended) but the vagueness of their communication was bound to have led to continued speculation. And now some Google Drive files are in the public domain. It’s all going to take quite a bit of reputation management to get things back under control.

"

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7. Posted by Jingle, 29/02/2024 23:10

"It seems that both Toto Wolff and Zak Brown are shown in a very poor light with their recent comments. Like the rest of us they do not know the details of the investigation. So why make comments that imply some form of wrongdoing or cover up by RB GMBH? Their comments today are unsporting jibes and smack of “if we cannot beat Red Bull on the track then we will disrupt them by any means at our disposal”. Interesting to compare this attitude to that of Christian Horner who openly supported the Wolffs in their recent controversy with the FIA - bit hypocritical of Toto and his lap dog Zak."

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8. Posted by geordiemik, 29/02/2024 22:31

"There will be no transparency over this or any other controversy until they tell us what happened over the Ferrari engine controversy a couple of seasons ago. It's funny how the row that caused simply dissappeared when everyone concerned did the old three wise monkeys thing.
It's interesting to see that even though new American ideas have swept through the sport they still hold to the same view regarding transparency and honesty."

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9. Posted by @R1Racing71, 29/02/2024 21:58

"And now the plot thickens. @ed have you seen the content of the leaked emails and are they legitimate in your opionion?"

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10. Posted by flyinglap, 29/02/2024 21:21

""They" simply cannot let it rest. Coming from Messrs Wolff and Brown, this can be qualified as utter nonsense matter of factly, to begin with. I wouldn't trust either of them even with tossing a coin. Furthermore, to be precise, while the headline following yesterday's announcement has been "Horner cleared to continue as team principal" or something similar, the actual declaration from Red Bull read " the grievance has been dismissed", which is quite more emphatic considering that supposedly it was the result of a thorough investigation by a qualified independent party. Whatever did happen (or did not happen) between Horner and the female employee is therefore an internal matter of Red Bull, and as such nobody needs to know anything more. In good faith, I could imagine that Red Bull (Austria) felt compelled to protect the company from a potential "metoo" type of situation and therefore they triggered the high-profile investigation in the first place (and rightly so). "Honi soit qui mal y pense"... Although, to be fair, it all has been to the expense of the reputation of Christian Horner alone, since we never learned the identity of the female employee. And, by the way, it looks like there is already a leak of supposedly damning evidence, so I wonder how will they all keep working in the same place as if nothing happened, and for how long. To be continued, apparently."

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11. Posted by Superbird70, 29/02/2024 19:54

"By all accounts Red Bull had procedures for addressing issues such as this, and they were followed. Regardless of whether I as a fan agree with outcome or not, an independent arbiter reviewed the statements and made a decision. As a fan, I don't need to know the details of the grievance. If I were a sponsor or collaborator I might expect some clarification.

This was far more transparent than the review of Andretti Racing's submission."

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12. Posted by Stitch431, 29/02/2024 19:23

"Toto, is that the guy that smashed his headset in front of the camera? All jokes aside, I'm not sure if he and his fellow Mercedes engine team boss Brown, know that the independent lawyer that conducted the investigation was a lawyer of the King's court. This means that he has been appointed by the English court and as such has legal capacity. Therefore his judgment does carry a lot of weight. It is the same Toto (and his Susie) that exploded as he heard he was subject to an investigation regarding too deep relationships with certain members of the FIA. Now he is calling for Horner's head. I smell a little bit of hypocrisy here. Just a little bit ..."

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13. Posted by Dirt, 29/02/2024 18:32

"With Horner being cleared, there *is* a valid reason to keep the details private: The accuser.

We don't, and may never know, the circumstances, but I will personally assume the complaint was genuine and without malice, that Horner acted appropriately but was misinterpreted, and that the investigation was impartial and fair. In such an instance, when the investigation clears the accused, airing the case in public after the fact can only serve to damage the reputation, personal life, and career of the accuser who may be completely innocent of everything except feeling genuinely slighted. Whether the the rest of us think one party or another was overly "woke," or sensitive, or malicious, or anything else is irrelevant as we will never know the context of the original situation.

Perhaps I'm being na´ve, but then again I prefer to assume people are well intentioned until they give reason otherwise."

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14. Posted by rambler, 29/02/2024 18:28

"I doubt we have heard the end of this. Red Bull Racing is collecting controversy all of which is being hidden behind non disclosure agreements and the FIA. This reflects poorly on Red Bull (the company), the FIA and F!. F1 said they would be fair, open, honest and inclusive. There is no openness here. The F1 sponsors may not be happy with this being swept under the carpet with all the other controversies. "

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15. Posted by Italian Job, 29/02/2024 18:15

"If the complainant is unhappy with the outcome, he, she, or (in this day and age) whatever can negotiate a settlement which could permit leaving RB with a possible golden bye-bye, a glowing reference and reputation intact.
As I understand UK processes (and Horner, the factory and, presumably, the complainant are UK based) if this negotiation did not work then it would be a matter of resignation and a complaint to an Industrial Tribunal for constructive dismissal which would attract the media (print, TV and rabble) and become a circus (which neither RB nor Mr and Mrs Horner would want).
My take on it is that absent any real announcements, if there isn’t a Tribunal within a year or so then there is no longer a problem.
"

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