Since Red Bull Racing’s 2005 inception, through the glory years of multiple Formula 1 championship wins and the tougher times of the early hybrid era of the sport and right upon to the current time, with the Team embarking on an exciting new era, one man has been charged with directing the efforts of our hugely talented teams of engineers, mechanics and drivers – Christian Horner.
Christian’s path to the top rung of the Formula One management ladder began behind the wheel, as a talented young racer. However, after stints in Formula Renault, British F3 and Formula 2, the young motorsports enthusiast realised that his skills lay not in the cockpit of a racing car but at the helm of a team itself and over the course of the years that followed he built the Arden International race team he founded into a junior motorsport powerhouse.
Three consecutive International Formula 3000 team championships from 2002-2004 as well as Drivers’ titles in 2003 and 2004, marked Christian out as a motorsport manager capable of both building a ruthlessly efficient squad and also identifying exceptional driving talent. These achievements caught the attention of Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz, and when the Austrian company took the radically different step of setting up its own Formula One team for the 2005 season, it turned to Horner to run the operation.
The sport’s youngest team boss soon began to assemble a team capable of challenging for major honours, cherry picking talent from within the F1 paddock and facilitating the career progression of recruits from outside F1 and of those just starting on the motorsport ladder.
The recruitment of Adrian Newey as Chief Technical Officer at the end of the 2006 season was the most obvious coup, but the policy of placing the right people in the right positions was applied across the team, and by the start of the 2009 campaign the Team was ideally placed to make a serious challenge.
The team took its first win, and its first 1-2 victory, at the Chinese Grand Prix in 2009. From there the floodgates opened. Six wins and second place overall in the Constructors' Championship in 2009 increased to nine victories and Team and Drivers' title winners in 2010. Three more double crowns followed over the next three campaigns and the team remains one of just four teams in the history of F1 to have scored four consecutive Constructors’ titles.
The 2014 season, however, began a period of transition for the team as the sport introduced hybrid, turbocharged 1.6 litre power units. The switch put the team at a distinct power disadvantage and over the following seasons success came intermittently.
The 2014 season yielded three wins and nine other podium finishes as the team battled hard to preserve momentum but the following season proved to be a low point, with the RB12 scoring just three podium finishes across a difficult campaign.
It was clear that the team needed fresh impetus and this time it came in the shape of the inspired decision to vault a spectacularly talented young racer to a seat alongside proven race winner Daniel Ricciardo.
Max Verstappen’s impact was immediate, with the Dutch teenager scoring a remarkable win on his debut with the team at the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix. The mix of focused continuity and fresh blood worked to boost the team back to front-running status and the team ended the season as Constructors’ Championship runners up, taking 16 podium finishes and two wins.
New rules for the 2017 season presented an opportunity for a reset similar to the one the Team exploited in 2009, but with power units still a key factor in defining the pecking order of the grid, the positive effects of a class-leading chassis and aero package were not enough to take the team back to the top of the order. Wins for Ricciardo in Azerbaijan and Verstappen in Malaysia and Mexico, allied to a remarkable eight further podium finishes for Daniel pushed the team to third place in the Constructors’ Championship, but the season would go down as one of what might have been.
It was a similar tale last season. The RB14 once again demonstrated the team’s unmatched ability to build a class-leading chassis but with power still at a premium the Team was forced to settle for four wins and nine other podium finishes on its way to a second Constructors’ Championship third place in a row.
Once more change was in the air and midway through the 2018 season, Christian confirmed that the team would be switching power unit supplier for 2019 and beyond, entering into partnership with Japanese manufacturer Honda.
The move is a bold one but one that positions the team well for future success. Ultimately it’s another in a long line of decisive, incisive moves that have made Christian one of F1’s most successful team principals. A new era beckons and once again Christian Horner will lead the way.