Breaking news: When Christian Horner will learn his fate: JONATHAN McEVOY on the crisis clouding F1 – plus how Lewis Hamilton missed Netflix cut.

This must not be allowed to carry on any longer than it needs to. The saga around Christian Horner filled every conversation at the Bahrain International Circuit on Thursday and the man at the centre of it pretended as best he could that it was ‘business as normal’.

That has been his go-to phrase since allegations broke that he is under investigation for supposedly coercive behaviour towards a female employee, accusations he strongly denies.

And he stuck to the mantra in walking across the sunlit paddock, where pre-season testing is taking place, to take his place in a press conference – a date he kept as if, yes, it was ‘business as normal’. He signed autographs on the caps of guests on the Red Bull terrace afterwards. He shook a few hands and posed for selfies. It was forced bonhomie, of course, the brave outward face of a proud individual in the crisis of his life, all paraded for public consumption and the ubiquitous sound boom of the Netflix crew.

In brackets, what a miss he would be for the broadcasters should he leave the sport after 19 years. He and Spice Girl wife Geri bring glamour to the show. Along with Toto Wolff, his great interlocutor at Mercedes, he is one of the two modern giants of the team principal’s Piranha Club, and has never knowingly been shy in front of a camera. Not even now, if obviously viewing the exposure with rather less relish than before.

The accuser can hardly be more sanguine away from the limelight and the lines of photographers who tracked him every step of his way.

The saga surrounding Red Bull team principal Christian Horner is dominating conversation

The saga surrounding Red Bull team principal Christian Horner is dominating conversation

Horner has insisted it is business as normal in Bahrain despite being under an investigation

Horner has insisted it is business as normal in Bahrain despite being under an investigation

Horner and his Spice Girl wife Geri would be a miss for broadcasters if he is to leave the sport

Horner and his Spice Girl wife Geri would be a miss for broadcasters if he is to leave the sport

So it is no doubt good news for all concerned that I can reveal the inquiry’s findings, headed by an unnamed KC, is expected to be handed in to the Red Bull board for their determination over the next few days. A resolution is expected before the opening round of the world championship, back in this Gulf kingdom, next week.

Horner, 50, with so much at stake in his £8million-a-year job, would welcome such swiftness, talking on Thursday of a conclusion ‘as soon as possible’, though his supporters say he ‘respects the investigation, however long it takes’. One said: ‘This isn’t a public inquiry.’

This week in Bahrain, where the Red Bull car has been ominously quick, Wolff and McLaren boss Zak Brown called for transparency.

Wolff described it as ‘an issue for all of Formula One’. Brown, speaking yesterday, said: ‘The allegations are extremely serious. McLaren hold themselves to the highest standards of diversity, equality and inclusion.

‘These are extremely important to us and our partners, and to everyone in Formula One.

‘Red Bull Corporation has launched an investigation, and all we hope and assume is that it will be handled in a very transparent way, and, as the FIA and Formula One have said, swiftly, because these are not the headlines that Formula One wants or needs.’

A resolution in Horner's case is expected ahead of the opening round of the F1 season

A resolution in Horner’s case is expected ahead of the opening round of the F1 season

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has called Horner's case an 'issue for all of Formula One'

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has called Horner’s case an ‘issue for all of Formula One’

Back at the Red Bull hospitality area in one of the most pleasant paddocks in the sport – big enough only, but intimate, perfectly sized for gossip to travel door to door from one team to the next – sat Max Verstappen, their triple and reigning world champion. He was doing a media round with Dutch journalists.

It is a laugh that the PR lady from Red Bull listens in. She doesn’t understand a word of Dutch. But, whatever Max said, I know him well enough to guess that he would wish the instability aroused by questions over his boss’s future to be cast away. Race, sleep, race, sleep, is his style.

Yes, in some ways it is ‘business as normal’ at the 13-world championship-winning operation, its mechanics and engineers going about their polished jobs like perfection in the garage. But it isn’t ‘business as normal’ and won’t be until this matter is dealt with.

Newey deserving of a knighthood

Adrian Newey, the greatest car designer in history, said hello as I took the temperature in the Red Bull team base. He is a happy man right now. They all are there, grinning from ear to ear. For his new machine is a rocket ship – more than a second faster in testing than a year ago, when they won all but one of the 22 races.

Nine motor racing greats have been knighted (if you include Sir Ron Dennis, officially honoured for charitable works), dating back to Sir Henry Segrave, then the fastest man on land and water, and dead at 33.

Newey, a genius who draws his designs on paper with a pencil, surely deserves inclusion on the ennobled list.

Adrian Newey has designed a Red Bull car which is more than a second quicker than last year's

Adrian Newey has designed a Red Bull car which is more than a second quicker than last year’s

Drive to Survive leaves red faces at Mercedes

The new and sixth Drive to Survive series airs on Friday. Mercedes’ involvement revolves around their contract talks with Lewis Hamilton. They thought the contract had been neatly tied up with a bow on top when he committed himself to their cause only last year. A two-season deal, a lifetime ambassadorial role in prospect.

The seven-time world champion told Netflix of being wedded to the Silver Arrows. Toto Wolff opined that red wouldn’t suit him anyway. All very understandably smug.

That was before Hamilton exercised an escape clause to move to Ferrari for 2025 in what was the biggest story of the winter hiatus until the you-know-what scandal broke.

It was too late to cut or edit the material from the programme. So red overalls for Hamilton and red faces at Mercedes.

Lewis Hamilton's contract talks with Mercedes is a focus of the latest series of Drive to Survive

Lewis Hamilton’s contract talks with Mercedes is a focus of the latest series of Drive to Survive

Hamilton-backed movie set for 2025 release

I am told F1’s Lewis Hamilton-backed movie is now moving apace and due for release as planned sometime in the late summer of next year.

Progress was delayed by the recent Hollywood strikes, but, with expedited editing, all is said to be on course. Brad Pitt, starring as a washed up driver who returns to motor racing as a team boss, will start filming in person again at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

Russell grows in stature ahead of Hamilton departure

George Russell, at 6ft 2in one of the tallest of F1 drivers in a Lilliputian world, looked to have grown a fraction when I spoke to him in Bahrain. ‘You look taller,’ I said. ‘I think I am,’ he replied. ‘I have been hanging off a bar.’ That and stretching and yoga – lessons for all of us slumped over laptops.

His shoulders are also back now Hamilton is leaving for Ferrari a year hence, his desire to be No 1 at Mercedes secured when it looked like it might be a long wait to inherit that status. At 26, he wants the job and is clearly a talent.

Judging by testing, however, Mercedes are a long way off the pace set by Red Bull – who isn’t? He told me the car, ‘felt good to drive but let’s see what the stopwatch says.’ The hard facts appear to be the rub.

Specific times during the phony war are subject to how much fuel cars are carrying, whether they are trialling this part or the other, so plenty of caveats, but Mercedes appear to be in a group with Ferrari, McLaren and Aston Martin as the best of the non-Red Bull rest. Work to do, chaps!

George Russell looks to have grown in stature as he prepares to become Mercedes No 1 driver

George Russell looks to have grown in stature as he prepares to become Mercedes No 1 driver

Drivers wrong to complain about lack of testing time

Fernando Alonso was just one driver complaining about a lack of adequate pre-season testing, where on Thursday the action was delayed by a dislodged drainage cover. ‘More time to fettle their cars,’ they cry.

Well, eight hours of running on each of three days here ain’t bad. That’s a total of 24 hours, as even this GCSE C-grader mathematician can calculate, and surely enough time in this era of bulletproof reliability.

Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso has complained about the lack of adequate pre-season testing

Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso has complained about the lack of adequate pre-season testing

Mercedes mark birthday of great Niki Lauda

Niki Lauda would have turned 75 on Thursday. Given the triple world champion was non-executive chairman of Mercedes, his old team-mates laid on the pancake-based Austrian dessert Kaiserschmarrn at their hospitality area on Thursday night.

Niki was loyal to me when I had a few disputes with his lieutenants, and a great man by any sensible estimation.

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