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BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 29: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing and Oracle Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner embrace in the Paddock prior to practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on February 29, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202402290284 // Usage for editorial use only //

Verstappen packs praise on Horner for his role as Red Bull F1 boss

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 29: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing and Oracle Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner embrace in the Paddock prior to practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on February 29, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202402290284 // Usage for editorial use only //

Formula 1 World Champion Max Verstappen offered his strongest endorsement yet of Christian Horner since his Red Bull team boss became tangled up in allegations, regarding misconduct toward a female colleague of which he has been cleared.

Speaking on Friday after taking pole position in qualifying for the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, Verstappen said Horner’s contribution to the team’s on-track success was unquestionable.

The Dutch triple F1 champion told reporters in Bahrain: “Listen, when I look at how Christian operates within the team, he has been an incredible team boss. So absolutely, from the performance side of things, you can’t even question that.”

Horner was cleared on Wednesday after a lengthy investigation carried out by an independent lawyer for the F1 championship-winning team’s Austrian parent company, Red Bull GmbH.

He has repeatedly denied the unspecified allegations against him and Red Bull has said the investigation report will remain confidential.

But an anonymous email circulated widely on Thursday and containing a Google drive link to purported evidence submitted as part of the investigation triggered renewed speculation, in the media and on social networks, about Horner’s future.

Max: I speak to Christian a lot

ZANDVOORT, NETHERLANDS - SEPTEMBER 02: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing talks with Red Bull Racing Team Consultant Dr Helmut Marko and Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of The Netherlands at Circuit Zandvoort on September 02, 2022 in Zandvoort, Netherlands. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

An FIA spokesperson said the governing body currently considered it an internal matter but was keeping a close eye on the situation. In Bahrain, 50-year-old Horner met with the president of the governing FIA Mohammed Ben Sulayem and F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali in the Sakhir paddock on Friday.

The pair were among the roughly 150 recipients of the email, which was also sent to commercial rights holders Liberty Media, other team bosses and members of the media.

Horner is the sport’s longest-serving team boss having brought Red Bull into Formula 1  in 2005. Last year, he led the Milton Keynes-based squad to its sixth constructors’ title with 21 wins from 22 races in the most dominant campaign in the sport’s history.

Winner of 19 races, who is hot favourite to claim a fourth F1 crown in a row, 26-year-old Verstappen added: “I speak to Christian a lot, and also throughout the weekend here, he’s fully committed to the team, he’s also here for the performance, of course, probably a little bit distracted.

“But, as I said before, we just focus on the performance side of things, and that’s how we all work together,” added Verstappen, who on Friday matched F1 greats Jim Clark and Alain Prost, claiming his 33rd F1 pole position, this time for the F1 season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix. (Report by Abhishek Takle)