Is He Really Guilty? The Case of Red Bull’s F1 President, Christian Horner
4 Minute Read
4 Minute Read

Red Bull 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. Red Bull will continue striving to meet the highest workplace standards.’ 

What is Christian Horner in trouble for?

Christian Horner, team boss at Red Bull has been cleared following a grievance investigation into allegations made by an employee that they were subjected to ‘inappropriate controlling behaviour’.

The investigation which on the face of it and in the Employment Law world felt ‘quick’ given the news hit the press stands in early February and was wrapped up and concluded by the end of the month, has apparently been, in fact, running for some time.

Red Bull has issued quite a remarkable statement that the process has been ‘fair, rigorous and impartial’ in clearing him, and that there will be no further comment. This is despite there still being scope for an appeal. Or is there?

What has Red Bull said?

To come out so publicly and state Horner has been cleared, whilst expressing their confidence in the investigation undertaken, where does this really leave an appeal to go? If overturning the appeal, the appeal officer would have to go, publicly, toe to toe with Red Bull, either finding that the first investigation was flawed, that the process was unfair or that the allegations actually have merit, and this was missed by the original Kings Counsel Investigator.

And, has he really been ‘cleared’? Is it the case that he is an innocent man who has been falsely accused, or was there insufficient evidence to conclude he behaved as alleged? The two are very different but equally could result in the grievance being ‘dismissed’, Red Bull has not confirmed either way.

Caution would usually dictate that an employer sits on their hands until the appeal has been concluded before making any conclusive remarks, and it doesn’t get much more conclusive than the Red Bull statement. Or, a settlement has been reached?

They do of course commit to ‘continuing to strive to meet the highest workplace standards’, with the whole affair wrapped up nicely for the start of the F1 season on 2 March 2024 – just 3 days away.

What has the investigation concluded?

Does that sound cynical? I might be. Horner was interviewed (for a ‘whole day’) on 9 February 2024 according to press reports. For such a high profile and serious investigation and with the world of sport watching, it feels remarkably quick even if the bulk of the investigation was completed prior to Horner being interviewed and leaves very little room for any further investigation after speaking to him, before a ‘150’ page report is prepared and submitted to the Red Bull board.

Alternatively, and perhaps controversially, how do we reconcile the global reach of this matter, the scrutiny of Horner’s life and activities and very public damage to his reputation, with the fact that the grievance has been dismissed. Could this not have been conducted in a more measured and confidential process to preserve the complainant’s right to raise concerns, and Horner’s right to dignity and confidentiality until a finding was reached?  Perhaps reflecting the ‘respect’ they refer to in their statement, it is a shame this did not crystallise earlier in this process.

Of course, allegations of inappropriate behaviour should be investigated properly, and the sports world should be transparent in its workplace dealings and those who act inappropriately held to account but was it fair for this to hit the press before the investigation finished, as the work is now on Horner to rebuild his reputation and standing in the world of Formula 1. Something tells me we haven’t heard the last of this one.

Are you ready to be your workplace hero?

In light of the recent events surrounding Christian Horner and the thorough investigation conducted by Red Bull, it’s evident that transparency and accountability are paramount in any workplace. While the conclusions may raise questions, it’s crucial to uphold the principles of fairness and due process.

As we await potential developments, let’s reflect on our own workplace environments. Are you fostering cultures of respect and integrity? Reach out to us for expert advice from our award-winning employment lawyers and advisors.