Red Bull and Hamilton in focus: Double drama overshadows the start of the Formula 1 season

Red Bull and Hamilton in focus
Double drama overshadows the start of the Formula 1 season

A good 4,000 kilometers by flight from Red Bull’s headquarters in Fuschl am See, the Formula 1 test drives in the desert of Sakhir will be the next PR balancing act for the group around managing director Oliver Mintzlaff. In terms of sport, everyone is excited about the industry leader’s new racing car, whose design surprised many people. When all the main actors meet again just 87 days after the finale of the season once again dominated by Max Verstappen, the focus is on two explosive personalities – and one concerns Red Bull.

The Horner case: Will he stay or must he go?

Even Formula 1 felt compelled to comment shortly before the cameras turned back on the billion-dollar business. The hope: that the matter surrounding Red Bull team boss Christian Horner will be clarified as quickly as possible. The longest-serving team boss in the racing series is accused of inappropriate behavior by an employee, but he himself denies it. Red Bull commissioned an independent, external law firm to clarify the matter.

The company, in which the former Rasenballsport Leipzig CEO Mintzlaff has been one of three managing directors since the death of company founder Dietrich Mateschitz and is responsible for all sporting activities worldwide, must now decide on the next steps. At the broadcast of the presentation of the RB20 for the team’s 20th season in Formula 1 in Milton Keynes, Horner was one of the protagonists – as if nothing had happened.

This Thursday, Horner is scheduled to be one of the interlocutors in the press conference during the lunch break at the Bahrain International Circuit. According to reports, the decision about his whereabouts could even drag on until after March 2nd – the day of the first race of the record season with 24 Grand Prix.

Should Horner have to leave, team manager Jonathan Wheatley or technical director Pierre Waché would probably be considered as successors. If Horner stays, it will have to be seen how much the matter has weakened the 50-year-old Brit in his office. There has been talk of a power struggle between Horner and Red Bull’s motorsport consultant Helmut Marko, who in turn is close to three-time champion Verstappen, for some time.

The Hamilton File: Can this work?

It’s not surprising that the Red Bull camp, of all places, has already lit up, even if there is a huge fire going on there. “Usually in a situation like this, your mind is more on the new team,” Marko told the “oe24” portal: “The whole thing is excellent for sport, better than Netflix.” Hamilton says he is more motivated than ever. At the age of 39, his hunger for success surprises even him. But it is also a fact that he will be competing for Mercedes for the last time this season and will drive for Ferrari from 2025.

The fact that he doesn’t even go to the wrong motorhome or park the silver-black car in the wrong garage for red racing cars should be one of the harmless innuendos. Hamilton’s future career planning definitely has potential for conflict. Also because his move means someone at Ferrari has to give up his place: Carlos Sainz. Will the Spaniard now become the Ich-AG in the red racing car? Certainly not, but it is questionable whether he will still adhere to all the guidelines in case of doubt, especially towards the end of the season.

Drama off the track, but: what does it look like in terms of sport?

The starting point is quite clear. Mercedes is coming off a season in which the team went without a single win for the first time in twelve years. Ferrari only won once, otherwise everything went to Red Bull in 2023. There, in turn, the relationships between Verstappen and Sergio Perez were so clear that hardly anyone believed in an exciting stable duel. And yet: the world champion team also took advantage of the winter. “They weren’t exactly conservative,” said Verstappen, calling it “controlled aggression.”

But there are also things that give hope. The regulations are stable, and such stability has always led to an equalization of the balance of power at some point. At least another such one-sided season is unlikely. Ferrari and Mercedes have completely overhauled their cars, abandoned the wrong paths of the past year and started anew. There are certainly similarities with Red Bull, but both teams continue to pursue their own approaches.

What is actually the procedure?

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday – from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time, the ten teams can test their new cars. Just a week later, the first qualifying takes place on Friday and the first race on Saturday, also at the Bahrain International Circuit.

And who will represent Germany in the new season?

The eternal Nico Hülkenberg is also there this year, with Haas the 36-year-old Rhinelander is making a new attempt – with a different line-up. The team boss Günther Steiner, who was quite prominent, especially thanks to the Netflix documentary, had to leave after unsuccessful years, and for him Ayao Komatsu is moving to the forefront. Things should get better: Haas recently fell back to the back of the field. Mick Schumacher is still in the role of spectator; the 24-year-old remains a reserve driver at Mercedes, but also wants to race again himself. That’s why Schumacher is starting at the same time in the World Endurance Championship for Alpine, with the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June as the highlight.

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