Enlarge image

Mohammed Ben Sulayem (l.) in conversation with world champion Max Verstappen

Photo: Darko Bandic / AP

Before the first race of this year's Formula 1 season, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the International Automobile Federation FIA, commented on the allegations against Red Bull team boss Christian Horner.

“It damages the sport,” Ben Sulayem told the Financial Times.

This matter is also “harmful on a human level.”

Now it is important to protect the sport.

»It's the start of the season, Formula 1 is just becoming so popular.

We have to look at the competition, why are we overshadowing it with negativity?" The Fia is the organizer of the Formula 1 racing series.

Ben Sulayem met Horner on Friday in Bahrain, where the first Grand Prix of the year starts on Saturday (4 p.m.; TV: Sky and RTL).

He did not provide any information about the content of the conversation.

An employee of the Red Bull racing team had accused Horner of “inappropriate behavior.”

Red Bull dismissed the complaint last Wednesday after a weeks-long internal investigation.

The explosiveness of this case grew on Thursday because an anonymous sender sent an email to representatives from Formula 1 and the FIA, among others.

It is intended to show excerpts from the private communication between Horner and that employee.

SPIEGEL was able to view the documents; they contain both chat messages and images with sexual content.

There is no evidence of forgery, but the authenticity of the documents cannot be determined beyond doubt.

Fia initially wants to hold back

The team bosses of Red Bull's competitors Mercedes and McLaren, Toto Wolff and Zak Brown, called for an independent review by FIA and Formula 1. An investigative lawyer took on the matter on behalf of Red Bull.

Ben Sulayem described this procedure as a “thorough investigation.”

At least at the moment, the FIA ​​is not planning to intervene in the matter.

We shouldn't rush into anything, but we will examine every complaint that comes through our compliance officer, says Ben Sulayem.

The FIA ​​currently has no plans to conduct its own investigation because there is no formal complaint.