In a revealing sit-down interview with British sports journalist and TV presenter Laura Winter, Oracle Red Bull Racing's two most senior figures reflected on the origins of their professional relationship, how working together for a common goal formed a bond, and how successes – plus the lean times in between – have shaped the team into a modern-day F1 powerhouse.
Christian Horner is the only Team Principal Oracle Red Bull Racing (ORBR) has ever had, playing an instrumental role in taking what he describes as a ‘party team’ to the lofty heights of winning 2022’s F1 Driver and Constructor Championship.
It’s been a long journey full of twists and turns since the team first competed in the world championship back in 2005 when a relatively green Horner was trying to turn an unproven team into serious competitors. Reflecting back on the period, Horner says it was clear to him what was needed, or more specifically who he needed: Adrian Newey. "What was missing was a clear technical direction," Horner says.
"Adrian was the very best that's ever been in Formula One, so it was a question of how could we entice, how could we attract Adrian to join the Red Bull team?"
By 2005, Newey had a deserved reputation as F1's foremost engineering brain, his early days at Leyton House in 1990 leading to title-winning technical director roles at Williams and then McLaren.
Horner knew who he wanted but he wasn’t quite so clear on how to get his man, so he set out to instigate a series of ‘chance encounters’ with Newey so he could make his case. Persistence paid off and eventually Newey did join Horner in 2006.
Newey reveals that it was 13-time Grand Prix winner David Coulthard who played a key role in convincing him to join and that behind Red Bull's reputation as a 'party team', a serious, well-funded, ambitious and hungry group of racers desperate for success lay within.
"David's a good friend, somebody whose judgment I very much trusted, and David gave it a big thumbs-up," Newey remembers.
"(Red Bull Racing) was always having big discos … was this a team that would be taken seriously? But if you went beneath that veneer, then to me it looked like, yes, it had all had all the building blocks."
Those building blocks became especially clear to the outside world when Coulthard retired in 2009 and was replaced by Sebastian Vettel.
Reflecting on Vettel's career, which finished on 299 races after the German retired from the sport after the 2022 season finale in Abu Dhabi last month, Horner says a combination of skill and unsurpassed work ethic mark him as one of F1's greats.
“As soon as Sebastian got that opportunity, it was clear that he was an outstanding talent," Horner says.
"Sebastian worked incredibly hard. He was incredibly dedicated. He left no stone unturned. He was often the last guy in the engineering office at the end of a Friday or Saturday.”
Newey is equally full of praise for Vettel and believes it was the German’s relentless desire to improve that gave the driver his edge:
“Sebastian was very methodical in his approach, he drove himself hard and if he made a mistake, then he would want to understand how it was a mistake, why he made that mistake and what he could do better. He very rarely made the same mistake twice.”
Vettel's achievements at Red Bull remain unsurpassed, but at Max Verstappen's recent rate of progress, perhaps not for much longer.
The Dutchman wasted no time making his mark at Red Bull Racing after 23 races with Toro Rosso, winning on his debut for the team in Spain in 2016. Verstappen then backed up his thrilling last-gasp 2021 title win with a championship defence for the ages in 2022, winning 15 Grands Prix and scoring 454 points, both F1 single-season records.
Both Horner and Newey have seen every aspect of both Vettel and Verstappen's F1 time at Red Bull from the inside, and while both world champions have achieved their successes in contrasting ways, Horner points to one common thread.
"I think they're such different people," Horner emphasises.
"I mean, Sebastian was very Germanic in his work ethic. He worked very, very hard. Max – just a very natural, raw ability that has a hunger and determination like I've certainly never seen before. So, very different in so many ways, but very similar in their determination, in their desire to want to win, to want to be the best.
"Max, whatever he goes on to achieve in his career, has done so much in such a short space of time. At the age of just 25, it's quite frightening to think what actually lies ahead of him."
While drivers – and world champions – have been and gone, the senior figures of Horner and Newey have given the team stability and structure after 17 seasons together. The future might be unknown but what's clear for both Horner and Newey is why their alliance – edging towards two decades – has worked in the past, and will continue along those lines in the seasons to come.
To read more about Horner and Newey’s conversation visit redbull.com.
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