Christain Horner, team principal, Red Bull Racing Formula One team, talks about how life changes when a team achieves greatness, and about his transition from racing to managing. Red Bull is the reigning F1 constructors’ champion, while Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel became the youngest driver to win back-to-back drivers’ championships at the Japanese Grand Prix earlier this month.
How is managing a winning team different from managing one that is not as successful?
It is a different challenge in many respects. Expectations go up, for one thing.The goalposts move; you go from being the hunter to being the hunted. Suddenly, the expectation is to continue to win. The most important thing then is stability, in creating a stable workforce. It is a harder challenge now, I think, than it was when we were trying to win.
Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner
When you wake up in the morning now, are you thinking about different things, compared with before, when you were still working on winning?
I think your priorities do change. For us, the immediate priority now is to focus on the next race and make sure we achieve the best possible outcome from the race. As a team, we like to look and focus on one thing at a time rather than think too far into the future.
But as team principal, as a manager, do you still look at things on a race-by-race basis?
Things are a little different in my case, I suppose. I have to worry about the next race, the next year, and in some cases, about certain issues for the next two or three years.
You were a driver who later moved into management. How difficult was the transition?
I started my career believing I was going to be a race driver. I grew up in the sport, but eventually I realized that my talent was limited.Having driven over the years for good teams and not-so-good teams, I decided that the only industry I really knew, understood and was passionate about was racing. So I decided to step out of a car and manage a team.
Do you still drive?
Once in a while, but just for fun. Nothing serious at all. For instance, last week I drove at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. But nothing serious.
Red Bull has often said the team wants to bring fun back into the sport. Why do you think the fun was missing, and what are you doing about it?
Red Bull has injected a tremendous amount of energy into the sport. We’ve been responsible for bringing down some traditional barriers and bringing the sport closer to the people. We have a very large show car programme where we take Formula One into cities and areas where you’d least expect to see a racing car. Red Bull’s outlook has been quite different, especially in comparison to some of the more traditional, manufacturer-owned teams.
What made the sport less fun in the first place?
No, I think the sport is not boring at all. The viewing figures are fantastic and I think we put up a good show. But some five or 10 years ago, there was too much involvement by the manufacturers, which, I think, made things too corporate. But I think now the racing is really exciting. There are some big personalities, fantastic drivers, and different teams—you’ve got the heritage of Ferrari, the engineering aspect of McLaren, and the useful edginess of the new kids on the block like Red Bull.
Do the heritage teams take the new kids on the block seriously?
When you’ve won 23 grand prix races and two championships, they are bound to take you seriously. But, like any sport, you’re only as good as your last race.
Are you excited about coming to India?
We are really looking forward to it. I think Formula One becomes a true world championship when we come to India. The circuit looks great and the interest from Indian fans has been incredible. I am really hoping to see a great inaugural race and hope all the teams will be able to put up a great exhibition for the fans.