INDEPENDENT 2024-03-19 16:04:08


Christian Horner update as ‘major Red Bull figures hold talks’

Christian Horner and major Red Bull figures such as Helmut Marko and Jos Verstappen have reportedly held initial talks about steadying the ship in the wake of a tumultuous few weeks at the F1 world champions.

The female Red Bull employee who accused Horner of “inappropriate behaviour” – an allegation the F1 team principal was cleared of after a three-week long investigation by an external KC – has been suspended by Red Bull Racing and has appealed the decision, while also lodging a complaint with the ethics committee of F1’s governing body, the FIA.

Yet the whole saga involving Horner and the female complainant has unearthed tensions within the F1 world champions, with Horner rallying for control against Max Verstappen’s father, Jos, and the team’s long-term motorsport adviser Marko.

This reached boiling point when Jos claimed Red Bull would “explode” if Horner stayed in his role, before Verstappen Jnr insisted he could leave the team if Marko was removed from his position, with Mercedes potentially waiting in the wings.

However, there have been initial talks towards something of a truce between the major parties at Red Bull ahead of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

There is a willingness among all parties to not allow political matters off-track to impact performance on-track and, according to The Mirror, Horner, Verstappen Snr and Marko have agreed to a “public ceasefire” for the time being.

There are also reports that Horner now has the full backing of the Austrian board, including executives Franz Watzlawick and Oliver Mintzlaff, as well as Thai majority owner Chalerm Yoodivhya who was present alongside Horner at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix in a show of support.

Whether this support for Horner, in the long-run, could trigger Verstappen’s departure from Red Bull remains to be seen.

The Dutchman, who won the first two races of the season with ease as he looks to win a fourth-straight championship this year, has a contract with Red Bull until the end of 2028 worth approximately £50m-a-year.

Yet Verstappen insisted in Saudi Arabia last week that his future at the team could depend on Marko’s position.

“If such an important pillar falls away, it is not good for my situation and I have told the team that,” Verstappen said. “He is an important part in my decision-making for the future. For me, Helmut has to stay. I have a lot of respect for him, and what we have achieved together. It goes very far.

“He has built this team together with Dietrich [Mateschitz] from day one. And he’s always been very loyal to the team, to everyone within the team, to make sure that everyone would keep their positions already from back in the day.

“I think it’s also very important, of course, that you give the man a lot of respect for what he has done. And that comes back also to loyalty, you know, and integrity. So, yeah, for sure, it’s important that he stays part of the team, also for me.”

Horner’s wife, Spice Girl pop star Geri Halliwell, was by her husband’s side at the first two races of the season in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia despite the leak of some sexually suggestive WhatsApp messages allegedly between Horner and the female colleague.

The Red Bull F1 boss himself implored the world to “draw a line” under the situation, insisting at the end of a highly-charged press conference in Jeddah: “The intrusion on my family is enough.”

Horner is expected to be present at Albert Park this weekend as Red Bull look to extend their win-streak to 10 races, stretching back to Singapore last September.

Film age ratings get strict for sex – but ease up on cannabis

Britons are increasingly turned off by onscreen sex and violence, according to the latest research by Britain’s film censor, which is now recommending tougher age ratings.

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has introduced tougher restrictions on guidelines for sex, nudity and violence in 12 and 12A productions – but has eased on scenes about drug use.

The institution says that the public has become concerned about the amount of sexual and violent content young people are exposed to.

After surveying 12,000 people, the BBFC found that public opinion had shifted, with respondents calling for a more cautious approach to sex and violence scenes in 12/12A films.

Respondents were shown 28 trailers, 151 clips and 33 films, including the 1964 James Bond film Goldfinger.

The BBFC’s president, Natasha Kaplinsky, said that while the portrayal of sex, violence and nudity caused concern, respondents took a more relaxed view around some drug use, such as smoking cannabis, “so long as it is not detailed, glamorised or frequent”.

The former BBC journalist told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that there is a “slight lessening of anxiety around dope and weed and solvency abuse in younger categories”.

She said that the research informed the organisation’s classification of the new Bob Marley biopic One Love, which features frequent use of marijuana.

“Normally, according to past guidelines terms, it would have been a 15 but because we had sight of a consultation, we were able to give [One Love] a 12A,” she explained.

“The public has told us that there is a greater tolerance of dope and the message of One Love is about peace and marijuana is completely essential to the Rastafarian religion and it made sense to give that film a 12A rather than a 15.”

The new guidelines for age ratings will likely affect how films are reclassified.

The 1964 film Mary Poppins, starring Julie Andrews, was given a change in rating during the reclassification process and moved from a U to a PG due to the use of discriminatory language in the film.

Ms Kaplinsky said the organisation had to adapt to an “ever-evolving world”.

She said: “Since we last asked people across the country what they thought about our standards, society has changed and opinions have followed – it’s fascinating how this vast body of new research reflects this.”

Another area of concern in the survey was the use of language such as “bitch”, “son of a bitch” and “d***”. Other language with sexual or misogynistic connotations was highlighted as problematic by viewers. The organisation found that such language might require a higher rating with this in mind.

Audiences were found to be in favour of the way violence was classified but expressed concern about how “disturbing some forms of violence can be”. As such, higher ratings may be required for violence across all types of age classifications.

The BBFC chief executive, David Austin, said: “The effectiveness of what we do relies entirely on trust. To ensure we have that trust, and to get to the heart of what audiences think and feel, we go directly to them.

“Only by doing this can we ensure we are classifying content in line with the expectations of families across the UK. This is essential to maintaining the extraordinarily high levels of public trust that the BBFC is privileged to enjoy.”

Every four to five years, the BBFC updates its standard to reflect public opinion.

Miriam Margolyes is right – adult Harry Potter fans need more shame

They say never meet your heroes. But sometimes you don’t even need to meet your hero for them to slag you off. This is what the Harry Potter fandom discovered last week, when Miriam Margolyes, who played Professor Sprout in the wizarding film adaptations, let loose on the franchise’s adult devotees. “If your balls have dropped, then it’s time to forget about it. You know, go on to other things,” she said, with all the bolshy abandon you might expect from an 82-year-old screen veteran with nothing left to prove. “It’s a wonderful set of films, but it was 25 years ago. You know, grow up.”

It’s not the first time Margolyes has taken aim at the Harry Potter franchise; last June, she told British Vogue that the adaptation “wasn’t important” to her. It’s also not like she’s pissed off a few choice nerds, either: grown-up Harry Potter fans are everywhere – loud, proud, and inexplicably eager to tell you that they’re a Ravenclaw. Her words have drawn the ire of the Potterhead faithful, who’ve accused her of everything from ingratitude to bloody murder. “Utterly horrible,” one X/Twitter user wrote. “To speak about a community of fans with such disdain is incredibly disrespectful.” Another branded her “nasty”, arguing: “Nobody has a right to try and shame people into not enjoying something they harmlessly enjoy.” But here’s the thing: Margolyes does have that right. Don’t we all? And what’s a bit of shame every now and then between friends? In fact, I’d argue that there are few candidates more deserving of a bout of benign shaming than adult Harry Potter fans.

The problem is not simply that it is gauche or uncool to consume content intended for children (though, of course, it is). Nor is it just the issue of JK Rowling’s political views, whatever you think of those. Reading is a powerful way of understanding the world – and the Harry Potter novels are responsible for shaping countless comings-of-age for young readers. But what happens when you’ve already come of age? You need something new. As babies, we don’t keep eating puréed carrots after we’ve grown teeth.

What makes Harry Potter so worth clinging to? No other children’s books inspire the same fanaticism. The adult Potter fan phenomenon is its own weird thing. There aren’t 40-year-old accountants walking around advertising their love of Dick King-Smith, or arguing over which member of the Famous Five they most embody.

Ask yourself: what are the Harry Potter books actually about? A plucky kid who goes to wizard school and fights a kind of wizard Hitler. It is not that deep. Like most children’s books, the franchise offers, at its core, moral instruction, clear and easy-to-grasp lessons about the importance of kindness and the inevitability of death. The thing is, by the time you’re in your twenties and thirties, you should probably have worked a lot of this stuff out. (Don’t carelessly wave your wand at innocent people, for example – you should know that by now.)

I can already hear the “let people enjoy things” brigade. “This is snobbery!” “Elitism!” “Reading should be celebrated, no matter the book!” I’m happy to leave people to their whims, of course. But since when has “enjoying things” been a protected characteristic? People enjoy eating whole sticks of butter, or participating in cheese-rolling competitions. That doesn’t mean they should be encouraged. Let people enjoy things, sure – until they’re adults. There has to be a cut-off point. Then, like Margolyes says, it’s time to move on.

But they won’t, though. Not when being an adult Harry Potter fan is such a lavishly catered-for occupation. Last year saw the release of a hugely expensive open-world video game; there’s a big-budget stage adaptation running perpetually on the West End; a new TV adaptation is also in the works. How long is it until the Harry Potter bowls clubs, the Harry Potter Saga cruises? If we don’t heed Margolyes’s advice, it could be sooner than you think.

Warmer weather to return despite reports of ‘super storm’ hitting UK

The Met Office has said the UK will experience a “typical mix of spring weather” this week with sporadic periods of sunshine and has dismissed reports that a two-week storm will drench the country.

Milder and sunny conditions over the weekend are set to continue this week, with temperatures in the mid-to-low teens for many in the south of the country.

Met Office spokesperson Stephen Dixon told The Independent: “It’s a typical mix of spring weather for the UK this week, with periods of sunshine, showers and gusty winds and rain at times for some.

“The set-up ahead of the weekend is for temperatures to gradually shift back more towards average for the time of year, with a mix of sunshine and showers for many, though details are still being determined.”

The forecaster dismissed reports that a 400-mile “superstorm” is heading from the US and was set to bring extreme conditions to the UK at the end of this month with large amounts of rain for a period of two weeks.

Mr Dixon said there is nothing in the current forecast that could be described as a “powerful storm” for the UK.

Tuesday is starting on a rainy note as overnight showers continue in the morning for sometime, moving southeastward across England and Wales throughout the day.

However, these showers will clear by the afternoon, leaving a dry day behind with occasional sunshine.

Mr Dixon said “some isolated showers will still pop up in some central areas through Tuesday, though it will be dry for many through the day.”

Temperatures are forecasted to remain mostly mild, with 14C (57.2F) expected in many areas in the south.

However, more changeable conditions are expected from Wednesday onwards, with conditions turning windier on Thursday.

As the rain once again moves in later on Tuesday, Wednesday will have “a soggy start to the day for much of England and Wales”, Mr Dixon said.

“This will gradually peter out later in the day as it moves eastwards.”

“There’s some wet and windy weather from the north from Thursday, with an area of low pressure far to the north of the UK.”

“This will bring some gusty winds to the north on Thursday, with the west of Scotland likely to see some heavy rain at times,” Mr Dixon said.

The weekend forecast shows a continuation of sunny spells and showers across the UK, which can turn heavy and thundery at times, perhaps with hail in places.

Algarve golf break goals: All-round trips that will suit you to a tee

Stretching 125 miles along Portugal’s southern coastline, the Algarve is famous for its beautiful beaches, golden cliffs and warm climate. It’s also known for being one of the world’s finest golf destinations. With over 40 courses and resorts across the region, there’s no shortage of options, no matter your level or budget. Choose from courses overlooking the ocean, or those surrounded by lush greenery and rolling hills. Spectacular views are matched by first-class amenities, making the Algarve the perfect spot for an indulgent golfing getaway.

To make your break even better, if you book with Jet2holidays, you can find the perfect golf-friendly base in this beautiful region, ideal for resting and relaxing between rounds.

From hotels with golf courses on-site or close by, to a choice of three, five or seven-night stays with a number of golf rounds included in the price, plus travel to and from the course and the option to add 22kg golf carriage to your booking, Jet2holidays ensures your trip tees off perfectly. All holidaysinclude accommodation, return flights, transfers and 22kg baggage, all wrapped up in an ABTA and ATOL-protected package for a low £60pp deposit*. There are thousands of Free Child Places** available, and infants under two go free✝. Meaning it couldn’t be easier to book a great value getaway with the Which? Travel Brand of the Year 2023 and Tripadvisor’s Best UK Airline.’

To help you plan the perfect trip, we’ve plunged into the Algarve golf scene, from its incredible courses and key tournaments, to the best locations to play…

The Algarve’s standing as one of Europe’s top golfing destinations began in 1966, when British businessman John Stilwell created the region’s first traditional grass golf course near Portimão in the west of the region. The course was designed by British golfer, Sir Henry Cotton, who moved to the Algarve after retiring from the sport and recognised its potential as a golfing destination. Cotton went on to design more courses in the Algarve, as did other legendary players and golf architects, including Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Rocky Roquemore and Ronald Fream.

In the years since that first course opened, the Algarve has built a reputation as something of a golfer’s paradise. Portugal was named ’World’s Best Golf Destination’ at the 2023 World Golf Awards – and almost half of the country’s golf courses can be found in the Algarve. The area plays host to many important international tournaments, including the Portugal Masters, which is part of the PGA tour.

Why are the courses here so special? There’s the stunning scenery for a start. Play a round here and you’ll be surrounded by an abundance of natural beauty, from turquoise oceans and lagoons to dramatic clifftops and mountains. Then there’s the facilities: many of the region’s most famous courses are part of luxury resorts that also offer excellent food and drink options, spas and wellness centres.

Whether you want to be right by the ocean or further inland, prefer a hilly course or a flat one, are looking for 27, 18 or 9 holes, there is a huge variety on offer. The courses are often as challenging as they are beautiful, and you can expect to be making shots over ravines, lakes and beaches.

There are courses dotted the whole width of the Algarve, starting in the west, with many near the historic and beautiful town of Lagos, as well as the dramatic coastline of Sagres and the panoramas of the Serra de Monchique mountain range. In central Algarve, in the area between Vilamoura, Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo, you’ll find some of the most exclusive resorts in the region. The area is home to many of the most stunning courses in Europe, perched on clifftops or overlooking lakes, set amidst umbrella pines and golden cliffs. In Sotavento (the eastern Algarve), courses are more level, but still set amidst spectacular scenery, with some overlooking the Ria Formosa Natural Park and River Guadiana.

Wherever you choose to play, many golf courses in the Algarve have accommodation on-site, whether that’s a luxury five-star hotel or family-friendly self-catering options. Most are within easy reach of bustling towns and picturesque villages, so when you’re done teeing off, you’ll find a wealth of attractions to explore, including Michelin-starred restaurants, stylish bars, bustling markets and designer boutiques.

While the Algarve does attract plenty of pro golfers (Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy have been spotted on the region’s courses), it’s a great destination for all abilities, even complete beginners. Those wanting to learn the basics or improve their handicap can book into one of many golf academies and schools, which offer everything from a few hours one-on-one tuition to intensive week-long courses, many led by PGA pros. Specially designed golf fitness classes can help you improve skills like mobility, balance and rotation.

For those already feeling confident about their game, there are many amateur competitions and championships to sign up for throughout the year. Meanwhile families can have fun in golf parks with themed mini adventure courses.

And if you need a break from all the chipping and putting, there are plenty of other activities for you to try your hand at, from surfing or sailing to tennis, kayaking and horse-riding. Or just take some time out to relax and explore this beautiful part of the world.

To make it even easier for you to enjoy the ultimate break in the Algarve, Jet2holidays provides the perfect package holiday, looking after you at every step of the way with award-winning customer service and In-Resort Customer Helpers to ensure your stay goes smoothly.

With accommodation to suit every budget and need, Jet2holidays offers a range of hotels, apartments and villas with a variety of board options, from Self Catering to All Inclusive Plus.

Fly to the Algarve from 11 UK airports: Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds Bradford, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and London Stansted. To find out more and start planning your trip, visit Jet2holidays

*On bookings made ten weeks or more before departure. Full payment required by balance due date.

** One free child place per two paying adults. Subject to availability. T&Cs apply, please see www.jet2holidays.com/promotions#fcp for further details.

Applicable for all infants under the age of two years on the date of return. Infants are not entitled to a flight seat (they must be seated with a parent or guardian) or a 22kg baggage allowance.

We must combat racism and sexual harassment in the ambulance service

Whoever forms the next government, one of the greatest challenges that will confront them from day one is how to return the NHS to the condition that the public rightly expect – free at the point of use, high-quality care, short waits, and value for money for the taxpayer.

All of these will cost money, require careful reform (it is generally held), and need the cooperation of a hard-working professional workforce.

Balancing these tasks will be an awesome responsibility, overlaid as they are by the constantly growing demographic pressures on the service. However, one reform that can be introduced immediately to great benefit and at little cost is to eradicate the culture of racism and sexual harassment that has apparently taken hold across the ambulance service.

It sounds mad, but could ditching Sunak help save the Tory party?

In the past week, Rishi Sunak has suffered the defection of Lee Anderson, a donor race row and, inevitably, yet more speculation about his leadership. He’s ruled out an election on 2 May, declaring that economic and political recoveries are “around the corner” and urging nervous colleagues to “stick to the plan”.

He is sticking to his public working assumption of an election in the second half of the year. That means getting through the summer, finally making the Rwanda plan effective, “stopping the boats”, and voters benefiting from more tax cuts, lower inflation and lower interest rates in the autumn. But even some in No 10 fear that the present situation is unsustainable.

Sunak says “all Conservatives are united in wanting to deliver a brighter future” for Britain, which is arguable; and that he’s “not interested in Westminster politics”, which would be highly unusual for a man in his line of work. The impression is growing of a man who is losing control of events and of his own party, his authority seeping away, his own future passing out of his hands. No surprise, then, that there’s a bit of plotting going on…