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Like Arsenal taking down Arteta! Explaining Red Bull Racing’s civil war in football terms

Christian Horner, Red Bull, crisis

The brewing civil war at Formula 1 team Red Bull has captured the attention of the sports media as principal Christian Horner has been beset by allegations over his private life. But for those not in the know, how does this compare in footballing terms?

What happened at Red Bull Racing?

Horner finds himself under fire after allegations of inappropriate and controlling behaviour were made by an anonymous Red Bull employee about him in February.

Subsequently, WhatsApp messages that Horner allegedly sent the unnamed woman were leaked.

The Red Bull team principal, meanwhile, has denied all wrongdoing and has been cleared by his team.

Earlier this week, the woman who made the allegations was suspended by Red Bull.

The issue starts to get really thorny, however, because BBC Sport states that Red Bull motorsport adviser Helmut Marko will be suspended over actions he took during a period of internal investigation.

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Christian Horner, Red Bull Racing team principal
© IMAGO – Christian Horner, Red Bull Racing team principal

It is reported at MotorSport.com that Marko “is subject to an investigation by Red Bull relating to various media leaks that have taken place”.

If this were to be the case, this would be a staggering revelation and one that could rock the entire sports brand of the soft drink giant.

Red Bull, of course, straddles numerous sports and athletes. While F1 may be their highest-profile and most successful sporting brand, they also have a significant presence in football, with RB Leipzig, New York Red Bulls and Red Bull Salzburg their major teams.

Red Bull rocked

Guardiola being taken down from inside Man City is unthinkable
© IMAGO – Guardiola being taken down from inside Man City is unthinkable

In footballing terms, what is alleged to have happened at the F1 team could be compared to the Glazers seeking to bring down Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag or, perhaps more accurately given that Horner has been wildly successful at Red Bull, Khaldoon Al Mubarak sabotaging Pep Guardiola at Manchester City or the Arsenal board working to sabotage Mikel Arteta.

But it gets worse for Red Bull.

Max Verstappen, who is enjoying a period of unprecedented dominance at the top of the sport, has allied himself to Marko. The Dutchman has even issued something approaching a quit threat.

“It’s very important that he stays within the team. If such an important pillar falls away, that’s not good for my situation as well. So, for me, Helmut has to stay, for sure,” he said.

Max Verstappen is the Kylian Mbappe of Red Bull Racing
© IMAGO – Max Verstappen is the Kylian Mbappe of Red Bull Racing

Think of Marko, in this case, as something like a sporting director that a player is particularly attached to.

Of course, this is an unlikely scenario in football, with players typically favouring particular coaches or managers.

What it is, though, is a star performer exerting his strength over a team. Think Kylian Mbappe making demands of PSG in 2022 in order to keep him happy and, ultimately, sign a new deal with the club.

The situation at Red Bull is, in short, ugly with no quick resolution likely.

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