Motor racing-Horner cleared, will remain as Red Bull F1 boss

Formula One F1 - Pre-Season Testing - Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain - February 22, 2024 Red Bull team principal Christian Horner during testing REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed/ File photo

SAKHIR, Bahrain (Reuters) -Christian Horner will remain the boss of Formula One champions Red Bull after the team's energy drink parent company said on Wednesday he had been cleared of alleged misconduct toward a female employee.

Red Bull issued a statement after an independent investigation, over which the team had no control, and ahead of Saturday's season-opening race in Bahrain.

"Red Bull can confirm that the grievance has been dismissed," a spokesperson said.

"Red Bull is confident that the investigation has been fair, rigorous and impartial."

Horner, who is married to former Spice Girls singer Geri Halliwell, had denied the allegations against him and continued to lead the team during the investigation in what he said was business as normal.

The 50-year-old flew to Bahrain on Wednesday, and the outcome of the misconduct investigation lifted a cloud hanging over a team that won 21 of 22 races last year.

"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," the statement said.

"Red Bull will continue striving to meet the highest workplace standards," it concluded. The complainant has a right to appeal.

Horner's departure would have come as a seismic shock to the sport and to a team with ambitious plans to build their own engines in a new partnership with Ford from 2026.

The Briton is the sport’s longest-serving team boss having led Red Bull, whose current drivers are Dutch triple world champion Max Verstappen and Mexican Sergio Perez, into Formula One in 2005.

His intense rivalry with Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has also become a big feature of the popular Netflix 'Drive to Survive' docu-series which has drawn a new audience to the sport.

Last year, Horner led the Milton Keynes-based team to their sixth constructors’ title, setting a string of records in the most dominant campaign in the sport’s history.

Verstappen, winner of 19 of the races, clinched his third successive title and acknowledged on Wednesday the boss's role in the team's success.

"I think he’s very important, otherwise he wouldn’t be in that position for such a long time," the Dutch driver told reporters before the statement.

"Let’s say if your team boss disappears for whatever reason for one or two races, not much is going to happen, because everyone is in their role and they know what they have to do in the short term.

"But it’s all about people management over time. And then of course things will start to be different, if one of the leaders starts to not be there any more."

Mercedes' seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton, also speaking before the outcome was announced, said Formula One had to stay true to its values.

"I think we always have to do more to try to make the sport and the environment that people work in feel safe and inclusive, and any allegations have to be taken very seriously," said the Briton.

(Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Sharon Singleton, Bernadette Baum and Christian Radnedge)

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