In the sixth episode of Formula 1’s ‘Beyond The Grid’ podcast, Christian Horner opens up on his racing career, Red Bull Racing’s journey, Multi 21, Daniel Ricciardo and more.
Horner starts the podcast talking about Red Bull’s journey which earned the special reward in 2009 when it took its first-ever F1 victory courtesy Sebastian Vettel. He also talks about bringing luring Adrian Newey in the team from McLaren.
He then moves on to his own journey into the team boss role from Formula 3 to F1. He revealed Bernie Ecclestone wanted him to be in F1 and that they were talking to Eddie Jordan to buy Jordan Grand Prix in 2004.
However, it didn’t happen and Horner got involved with Red Bull in the buyout of Jaguar and finally make his F1 debut. He also discusses his own racing career and how his to-be wife indirectly helped him with the financial support.
Talking about the current power unit situation, he repeated that he understood why Mercedes and Ferrari wouldn’t want to provide their engine to Red Bull who have arguably the best chassis and will be in the position to beat the manufacturers.
Before getting to Vettel and Mark Webber shaky time in Red Bull, Horner stressed on the latest announcement of Ricciardo leaving the team to join Renault. Horner admitted that he was taken by surprise and thought Ricciardo was joking about his decision.
But he understood the Australian’s urge to move away especially with the growing competitive nature of Max Verstappen. He felt the relation between Ricciardo and Verstappen would have turned into a Vettel and Webber like situation in the coming years.
Horner said the team offered him everything they could including a one-year deal for him to drive for Mercedes or Ferrari if the call comes in 2020 or so, but Ricciardo wanted the change. He regarded it as a ‘shame’, but has no hard feelings.
For Ricciardo’s replacement in Red Bull, he quietly ruled out Fernando Alonso – terming him as the driver who creates ‘chaos’ in a team wherever he goes, which he reckons is not the healthiest and felt investing in younger talent than a driver closing to the end of his career.
On the topic of Carlos Sainz and Pierre Gasly in the senior team, he said that they will take a call in the due course of time, but insisted that home talent i.e a Red Bull-backed driver will be given the preference over anyone from outside.
When asked the best driver ever driven for Red Bull, he named Vettel without any doubt. He then discussed the situation between Vettel and Webber, stating that the Australian tried to do anything to unsettle the quicker Vettel.
In fact, he believed Vettel defying the famous Multi 21 call in 2013 Malaysian GP was a direct result of Webber’s move in 2012 Brazilian GP which nearly cost Vettel his title against Alonso. Horner termed it as a ‘100 percent payback’ from Vettel to Webber.
He believes Webber blew his best chance to win the title in 2010 due to Vettel getting into his mind. But nevertheless, he feel the Australian on his day was among the best drivers he has seen in his career.
He then talked about his life in general, his family and kids and also the meeting with the Queen, while ended the podcast talking about his future and the urge to take back Red Bull in the championship-winning ways.
Excerpts from the podcast on Ricciardo:
“I thought he was winding me up to be honest with you,” said Horner. “He rang me to say I’m going to Renault. I said ‘You what? Is this a wind-up for the summer holidays?’ But it then became very clear that was his choice and you have to respect that. Renault are a growing team, they’re committing resource there.
“I think Daniel decided after a long flight to America, he decided he wanted a change. You look at the rational reasons for that, it’s difficult to understand, but Daniel obviously had his reasons.
“I think it comes back to wanting to take on, in his words, a new challenge but I also feel he sees Max growing and growing in terms of speed and strength and he doesn’t want to play a support role I guess, for want of a better word, not that they are treated in any way differently.
“They would have equal status, as they have always had. I could understand if it was to Ferrari or Mercedes, but it’s an enormous risk at this stage of his career. It’s been a bit like trying to convince a girl to go out with you, but she’s being pretty reticent.
“We have bent over backwards to make it happen, but if someone’s heart isn’t really in it, then. We gave Daniel everything he wanted and asked for and it still wasn’t enough. We were even prepared to do a one-year agreement so he was available to Ferrari or Mercedes should they come knocking in 12 months’ time.
“It wasn’t about money or status, commitment or duration. I think he felt ‘I need to take something else on in this stage of my career’. It might be an inspired choice, it might one that he regrets.”
On Alonso and a possible replacement to Ricciardo: “I have got huge respect for Fernando. He’s a great driver, a fantastic driver. But I think it’s very difficult to see, he tends to cause a bit of chaos wherever he’s gone.
“I’m not sure it would be the healthiest thing for the team for Fernando to join the team. Our preference would be to continue to invest in youth than take a driver who’s obviously close to the end of his career.”
[Episode 5: Martin Brundle]