A hearing into allegations made against Red Bull Formula 1 team principal Christian Horner is expected to be held on Friday.
It emerged on Monday this week that the Red Bull parent company launched an “independent investigation” after being made aware of “certain recent allegations” of misconduct by Horner, which he has denied.
An “external specialist barrister” was hired to carry out the process and The Race understands a hearing will start on Friday, February 9.
It was reported by Sky Sports F1 on Monday that Horner would remain in his role as Red Bull Racing team principal and CEO while the investigation is carried out.
As the longest-serving team boss in F1, and leader of Red Bull Racing since it was created from Red Bull’s takeover of Jaguar ahead of the 2005 season, Horner is an F1 mainstay and one of the most influential figures in the paddock.
It is a potentially huge destabiliser for the team that these allegations and the investigation have emerged on the eve of the season, with Red Bull's car launch taking place next week and pre-season testing beginning in two weeks’ time.
Red Bull’s parent company taking the lead on this matter rather than it being an issue handled internally within Red Bull Racing shows how seriously it is being taken.
And while that in itself is no indication of the outcome, German and Austrian media outlets with close ties to Red Bull - and in particular its motorsport advisor Helmut Marko - have framed this as the potential end of Horner’s time in charge.
Team manager Jonathan Wheatley has even been touted as Horner’s potential successor.
There have been claims that this could be a consequence of a power struggle between the UK side of the team, led by Horner in Milton Keynes, and the branch of the Red Bull business that is headed by Oliver Mintzlaff, in the wake of Dietrich Mateschitz’s passing in late 2022.
One suggestion has been that this is an opportunity to seize more control of Red Bull Racing and the F1 operation’s various other businesses including the new Powertrains facility in Milton Keynes that Horner is also the CEO of.
Such assertions are without foundation at this stage.
What it does reflect is a trend of Red Bull paying more attention to the F1 team and treating it like a proper part of the business, with greater accountability.
Though it was not the same severity as this, and resulted in less formal action, Marko had his own conduct scrutinised last year after making derogatory comments about Red Bull Racing driver Sergio Perez and was forced to publicly apologise.
In its original statement, which remains Red Bull’s only official comment on the matter, it was said that the “investigation will be completed as soon as practically possible”.
There will be no desire to rush the matter and given the investigation is understood to relate to Horner’s alleged conduct towards an employee, it is of paramount importance to conduct the process diligently.
The timing is awkward for Red Bull though, which has one F1 team - the newly rebranded second entry - launching its car this week then Horner’s Red Bull Racing team launching its RB20 next Thursday.
A Friday hearing would potentially provide a window to resolve this before next week’s Red Bull Racing event at its Milton Keynes headquarters.
If not, there will be questions about whether Horner will appear at the launch as even though he is said to be continuing his duties, and the investigation has not yet reached a verdict, this would overshadow proceedings.