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Christian Horner with Red Bull team at start of F1 testing in Bahrain despite ongoing investigation


SAKHIR, Bahrain (AP) — Team principal Christian Horner was with Red Bull as Formula 1 preseason testing began Wednesday even as he faces an ongoing investigation by the team's parent company into an alleged claim of misconduct.

Horner was alongside the team's chief technology officer, car designer Adrian Newey, as Max Verstappen drove the team's new car at the start of Wednesday's morning session. It is the start of the Dutch driver's campaign for a fourth consecutive world title.

The Red Bull parent company said Feb. 5 it was investigating allegations of misconduct toward a team employee. Horner denies any wrongdoing and has continued in his role as team principal during the investigation.

On the track, Red Bull still had the fastest car in Wednesday's first session. Max Verstappen set the pace with a time that was 0.699 seconds faster than Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, and also overtook his rival on track near the end of the session.

“I think lap times at the moment don’t mean anything," Verstappen's teammate Sergio Perez said. "The most important is to get through our program and try to to make sure we have a good three days of testing because it’s basically all what we’re going to get through the season."

While most teams designed cars broadly similar to the 2023 Red Bull which won all but one race, Red Bull has changed its approach. Its new car has slim sidepods with vertical air intakes. It resembles an approach Mercedes tried previously with little success, but Verstappen's times indicated Red Bull has found a way to make it work.

Williams was the only team with obvious reliability issues as Alex Albon's car stopped on the track with a technical fault.

There are three days of preseason testing from Wednesday through Friday ahead of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix at the same venue next week.

Each day is split into two sessions, and teams can only have one driver on track in each. That meant Lewis Hamilton, who is leaving Mercedes at the end of the year to join Ferrari, was sitting out the first day as his teammate George Russell drove.

McLaren driver Lando Norris said he would wear a helmet with the design used by 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner Gil de Ferran, who died in December. De Ferran was McLaren's sporting director when Norris first raced in F1 in 2019 and had more recently been an adviser to the team.

“We lost someone really special to us at the end of last year, he was a dear friend of mine and he’d been with me pretty much since I came into Formula 1. Someone who I not only had many laughs and great times with, but someone who helped me out on and off the track whenever I needed it," Norris posted on social media. “This is the design he won the Indy 500 with, and I’ll be wearing it today as my little way to say thank you for everything and to let him know we’re thinking of him and he’s still very much part of McLaren. I hope you like it. This one is for you Gil.”


AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing