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Are Wolff and Brown right about Red Bull – or is this just a tactic to topple them?

Are Wolff and Brown right about Red Bull – or is this just a tactic to topple them?

Are Wolff and Brown right about Red Bull – or is this just a tactic to topple them?

Are Wolff and Brown right about Red Bull – or is this just a tactic to topple them?

In Formula 1, tactics are essential – and not just on the track.

Drivers and team principals alike know the importance of the mental game; keeping a cool head is key, but questioning your rivals is part and parcel of the intense and highly competitive sport.

Recently, there has been plenty of fodder for calling out one team – and one person – in particular, after Red Bull’s Christian Horner was subject to an internal investigation concerning alleged ‘inappropriate’ behaviour. He denies the allegations, and was cleared of any wrongdoing.

READ MORE: Horner in defiant stance with wife Geri after Verstappen win

The paddock has buzzed with speculation around the scandal, and F1 figures including Toto Wolff and Zak Brown, both team principals at rival outfits, have called out Red Bull for a lack of transparency.

Is this merely a tactic to topple Red Bull from the top spot like Max Verstappen suggested it was?

Or could their calls for accountability impact the course Red Bull takes from now on?

What happened with Horner?

In recent weeks, a female employee at Red Bull filed a complaint against Horner, accusing him of alleged ‘inappropriate’ behaviour, which was subsequently investigated internally by Red Bull.

Red Bull dismissed the complainant’s case, the announcement of which was soon followed by leaked documents supposedly showing WhatsApp messages between Horner and the complainant. The authenticity of the files has not been proven.

READ MORE: Schiff insists Red Bull took major 'RISK' during offseason

After the leak of the alleged messages, Horner said in a statement: “I won’t comment on anonymous speculation, but to reiterate, I have always denied the allegations. I respected the integrity of the independent investigation and fully cooperated with it every step of the way.

“It was a thorough and fair investigation conducted by an independent specialist barrister and it has concluded, dismissing the complaint made. I remain fully focused on the start of the season.”

READ MORE: Journalist claims Horner ‘messages’ leaked from anonymous email account

Christian Horner was exonerated after an internal investigation
Despite the allegations, Christian Horner and his wife Geri were seen at the Bahrain Grand Prix

After concluding the investigation, Red Bull GmbH also released a statement: “The independent investigation into the allegations made against Mr Horner is complete, and Red Bull can confirm that the grievance has been dismissed.

“The complainant has a right of appeal. Red Bull is confident that the investigation has been fair, rigorous and impartial.

“The investigation report is confidential and contains the private information of the parties and third parties who assisted in the investigation, and therefore we will not be commenting further out of respect for all concerned.”

Verstappen believes calling out of Red Bull is a tactic

Everyone in the sport has been discussing the issue, and several team principals and drivers have been vocal about their views.

While the constant chatter cannot have been easy to deal with for Horner, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen put comments by other teams down to gaining an advantage. He told De Telegraph: “That is a constant tactic that always comes back. That's typical Formula 1 too. Whether we would do the same? Yes, absolutely.

"You're always trying to get your own advantage from something. Very logical, this.”

READ MORE: Horner and Red Bull investigation given SCATHING verdict by F1 legend

Wolff decries Red Bull’s ‘basic’ response

Mercedes team principal Wolff has been stark in his criticism of Red Bull’s response to the issue, calling for outsiders to be able to ‘look behind the curtain’ at how the investigation played out in a press conference at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

He said: “Well I just read [Red Bull's] statement, which was pretty basic, I would say. My personal opinion is we can't really 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 is an issue. It was investigated and yesterday the sport has received a message, ‘It's all fine. We've looked at it.’”

Toto Wolff called for more transparency from Red Bull

He urged the sport’s leaders to look into the issue, adding: "I believe that with the aspirations as a global sport, on such critical topics, it needs more transparency and I wonder what the sport's position is.

"We are competitors, we are a team and we can have our own personal opinions or not, but it's more like a general reaction or action that we as a sport need to assess what is right in that situation and what is wrong."

Brown: There are a lot of unanswered questions

McLaren boss Brown also showed disapproval of how Red Bull is addressing the Horner issue.

He said in a press conference of Red Bull’s statement: “I think from what I've seen there continues to be a lot of rumours and speculation, questions.

"I think the sanctioning body has a responsibility and authority to our sport, to our officials. I think all of us in Formula 1 are ambassadors for the sport on and off the track, like you see in other sports, and so I think they need to make sure that things have been fully transparent with them.

"And I don't know what those conversations are and that needs to be thorough, fully transparent, and that they come to the same conclusion that has been given by Red Bull, and that they've agreed with the outcome.”

Zak Brown has been vocal in his criticism of Red Bull's handling of the Horner investigation

Brown insisted that the sport cannot ‘draw a line’ under the issue until Red Bull sheds some light on the particulars of the process, adding: "But I think until then, there'll continue to be speculation because there are a lot of unanswered questions about the whole process.

"So I think that's what's needed by those that run the sport to really be able to draw a line under it. Until then, I think there'll continue to be some level of speculation by people and I don't think that's healthy for the sport."

Team principals often poke fun at, or call out their rivals throughout the season, all in good-natured competition. But tactics or not, the issue around Horner has shown the role team principals choose to take on in holding others accountable for transparency. Should other teams be able to 'look behind the curtain' at internal processes? It remains to be seen if, in this case, their demands are met.

READ MORE: Marko issues 'ejector seat' warning to key RB figures

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