FIA exercising caution in Horner probe, but case ‘damaging’ for F1

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FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem says the governing body is taking a hands off approach – for now – to the controversy surrounding Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, but admits the case is “damaging the sport”.

The FIA and Formula 1 finds themselves embroiled in a complex situation involving Horner. Despite a recent independent investigation clearing the Briton of inappropriate behavior allegations, the controversy continues to generate headlines, damaging the sport's image.

Following accusations from a female employee of Red Bull Racing, parent company Red Bull GmbH launched an internal investigation led by an independent barrister. After eight weeks, the investigation found insufficient evidence to support the claims and dismissed the complaint.

However, the situation took an unexpected turn during the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend. Anonymous emails containing an alleged "dossier" related to the case were sent to key figures in F1, including the FIA, FOM, and media outlets.

These leaked documents, though unverified, have generated significant media attention, and sparked significant concerns for both F1 and the FIA about the negative impact the controversy is having on the sport, especially as it overshadows the start of the season.

Prior to Bahrain's qualifying session, Horner met with F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali and FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem. While the meeting's details remain undisclosed, it's understood that the ongoing situation and potential next steps were discussed.

While acknowledging the "damaging" nature of the situation, Ben Sulayem emphasized that the FIA will not “jump the gun” or proactively investigate based on unverified leaks.

However, he clarified that the FIA remains open to investigating any formal “complaint that comes through our compliance officer”.

“It’s damaging the sport,” the FIA chief told the Financial Times. “This is damaging on a human level.”

“It’s the beginning of the season. F1 is becoming so popular. We just need to enjoy the beginning of the season. Look at the competition. Why do we overshadow it with negativity?”

Red Bull provided no transparency regarding the outcome of its inquiry into Horner, leaving its rationale behind the Briton’s exoneration unexplained.

It’s also unclear whether the documents leaked on Thursday were part of the evidence reviewed by Red Bull. If they were, the energy drink company will surely be accused of attempting to suppress the issue.

The only certainty at this stage is that someone, somewhere is desperate to see Christian Horner booted out of Formula 1.

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