Christian Horner: “F1 is not just about the driver”

Written by Cheryl Tay on . Posted in Cheryl Tay Blog | Blog Post of Cheryl Tay

As promised, I’m digging up the F1 interviews I did last year as part of the lead-up to the 2011 Formula 1 SingTel Singapore Grand Prix!


Yesterday I started off with Sebastian Vettel, whom wasn’t World Champion yet when I interviewed him, and today I have Christian Horner, team principal of the wonderful Red Bull Racing team:

36139_455980642709_602152709_5239866_3210201_nRed Bull Racing’s team principal Christian Horner is the youngest team principal in the Formula 1 paddock. The 37-year-old Englishman started as a racing driver, securing a Formula Renault scholarship in 1991 and winning the 1992 British Formula Renault Championship as highest placed rookie. Progressing to Formula 3, he won more races before moving to F3000 in 1996, racing in the British Formula 2 Championship. The next year, at the age of 24, he started his own racing team – Arden International – and participated in the International F3000 series. But two seasons later Horner decided he would rather run and manage the team instead of being a driver.


His F3000 racing team became a success story as it won several driver and team championships. It later became a GP2 Series team where he honed talented drivers like Vitantonio Liuzzi, Heikki Kovalainen, Sébastien Buemi and Bruno Senna who are all in F1 today. Horner was then selected as team principal in 2005 when Red Bull set up its own F1 team. Into its seventh F1 season, the Red Bull Racing team is doing well – winning both drivers’ and constructors’ championships last season and leading it significantly this year.


How does it feel to be in your position?

CHRISTIAN HORNER: There’s always a challenge in a job and every day there is a new challenge. Red Bull Racing (RBR) has come a long way over the last five seasons and it is definitely the hard work of the team that brought us to where we are today.


What are some of these challenges?

They range – the biggest challenge is obviously to ensure that everybody focuses on the same objectives and targets, making sure that we have the right people and resources. Everything moves very very quickly in the sport and it is so competitive so we have to ensure that we have the right drivers and all the right aspects to be successful.


Do you think it is helpful to have been a racing driver before?

It gives insight and I am able to relate to some of the emotions that the driver goes through. I think it is useful, but that was a long long time ago.


What’s the most rewarding aspect of the job?

The biggest reward is seeing the team succeed. It’s not just the people here at the track but also the people back at the factory. When you see the faces of the people on a Monday after winning a Grand Prix, it’s a fantastic rewarding feeling and RBR is a team I am very proud of.


What do you like most about your job?

I don’t get much chance to think! F1 is a competitive business, but I enjoy the competition and the most enjoyable thing is seeing our cars finish first.


When did you realize that you want to run a team and not be a driver?

I recognised quite early in my career that my driving talent was limited so I decided to take what I’ve learnt as a driver in both good and bad teams, and put that experience to good use. I stopped driving and put my energy and focus into building my Formula 3000 team then.


How different is Formula 1?

The challenge is fundamentally the same no matter which aspect of motorsport. It’s about having the right people, giving them the right directions and the right tools to do the job and obviously, having the right drivers. F1 is much bigger than any other motorsport but these vital ingredients essentially remain the same so it’s all about getting the fundamentals right. The biggest asset of any F1 team is the people.


Five key factors for a successful F1 team?

Working as a team, having the right technical direction, having an absolutely totally committed workforce across every single department, never being afraid of a challenge and lastly, having the right drivers.


Which race was the most memorable?

Winning our first Grand Prix in China in 2009! It was a big moment for the team, and very special because it was a 1-2 finish as well. It represents the realisation of an awfully large amount of hard work from the team.


How important is a driver in the team?

Behind the scenes there is a lot of effort by the hundreds of engineers, technicians, manufacturing guys. In other sports it tends to be about a group of individuals or an individual himself, whether you’re a golfer, tennis player, football player or cricketer. But in motorsports, the driver is only one element and there has to be a huge support mechanism to ensure that the cars can deliver what the driver wants. The driver is one very important part of the team, but it’s not all about the driver.


What do you think of female drivers?

Other than parking, they are fantastic!


Will you ever look into taking female drivers into your team?

There are very good female drivers, especially in karting where there are girls who are very competitive. It’s only a matter of time before one of them arrives in F1.


What are some of your hobbies or interests?

I enjoy spending time at home and I like being in the countryside, but I don’t have much time for hobbies in this job.


Cheryl Tay

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Singapore’s only female full-time motoring and motorsports photojournalist. Independent automotive consultant and prominent local motorsports personality Cheryl Tay is uniquely passionate about all things cars and motorsports. She also has a strong passion to share her interest and knowledge, hence having a dream to become the ‘Oprah Winfrey of cars and motorsports’ and create a multimedia platform for her sharing. - A female in a male-dominated world, Cheryl Tay is Singapore’s only female full-time motoring journalist and motorsports blogger and she regularly writes for prominent titles in Singapore, Asia and internationally. (See full list of titles that Cheryl Tay writes for here.)

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