Sources: Verstappen father to skip Saudi GP

Max Verstappen’s father, Jos, will not attend the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix following comments he made about under-fire Red Bull boss Christian Horner, sources told ESPN.

Horner was cleared of misconduct last week by Red Bull GmbH, parent company of the race team, following an investigation into an allegation of inappropriate behaviour by a Red Bull Racing employee.

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An email sent from an anonymous account with messages purportedly linked to the case was leaked to the media the day after the complaint was dismissed, but Horner has remained in his job.

McLaren boss Zak Brown and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff called on Formula One’s authorities to demand greater transparency from Red Bull over the recent investigation into Horner.

After his son won the Bahrain Grand Prix, Jos Verstappen told the Daily Mail: “There is tension here while [Horner] remains in position. The team is in danger of being torn apart. It can’t go on the way it is. It will explode. He is playing the victim, when he is the one causing the problems.”

Jos Verstappen and Horner were seen having a heated argument the night before the Bahrain Grand Prix, although the Dutchman later came back to apologise.

The elder Verstappen reportedly told those close to him that his son will leave Red Bull if Horner stays. He is also reported to have had dinner with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff during the build-up to the race.

Mercedes has yet to find a replacement for Lewis Hamilton when the seven-time champion leaves for Ferrari in 2025. It is not known if the reigning world champion shares his father’s opinion on Horner or on leaving the team if he stays.

Sources confirmed to ESPN that, with Red Bull tensions at boiling point and with the narrative starting to shift towards him instead, Jos Verstappen has backed out of attending this week’s race in Jeddah.

Throughout his son’s career, he has been a near-permanent fixture of the F1 paddock. Even though he will not be there, the topic of Verstappen’s father is likely to dominate the build-up to F1’s second race of the season.

His comments about Horner caused a stir. A report in The Telegraph suggested that the reigning world champion has been left in the position of needing to choose between his father and the head of his all-conquering F1 team.

Sources with knowledge of the situation also suggested this feeling has been growing within the team for a while.

Jos Verstappen’s tough-love approach with his son included leaving Max by the roadside on the drive back home after a disappointing go-karting result.

Despite his strong stance on Horner, Jos Verstappen is no stranger to controversy himself. After a 1998 fight at a go-kart track, he was issued with a five-year noncustodial sentence by a Belgian court, having been found guilty of fracturing the victim’s skull.

In 2008, Jos Verstappen was fined and given a three-month suspended sentence for threatening Sophie Kumpen, Max’s mother, and violating a restraining order.

In November 2011, he denied an allegation of assault by an unnamed 24-year-old girlfriend. In January 2012, he was arrested for attempted murder following claims he drove a car into his ex-girlfriend in the Netherlands. He was released after two weeks in jail when the charge was withdrawn due to a lack of evidence.

For Max Verstappen, the controversy around Horner and the growing coverage around his father has done little to diminish his focus on a fourth world title.

The Dutchman won the Bahrain opener at a canter, claiming pole position and the fastest lap while leading every lap of the race — a combination of achievements known in racing as the Grand Chelem.

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