Christian Horner is here to win

The Red Bull Racing team lead on feeling the pressure, and doing it anyway

For a man of Christian Horner’s stature, his office isn’t quite what you’d expect. Really, it’s a warehouse – a big one – on an industrial estate in Milton Keynes. It’s filled with engineers, technicians and other very clever people beavering away, quietly and efficiently, to get the Red Bull Racing team that next step closer to Formula One victory. Walk into the reception and you’re greeted with the only swish sight in the whole building; a twenty-foot-high wall lined with countless trophies marking out the Red Bull Racing’s repeated success – the fruits of Horner’s formidable regime as Team Principal.

It’s not a glamorous office because Horner is more interested in getting things done than he is in the glitz of Formula One. His track record proves it. He didn’t go to university, instead, he worked his way around every Formula Three and Formula Two garage in the country, till someone took him on as a minion. Somehow, he got himself into the cockpit of a car and several years of impressive F2 racing followed. Despite this, he moved over to team management at just 25-years-old, and in the years that followed he founded the Arden International race team, and built it into a junior motorsport powerhouse.

He was appointed Red Bull Racing’s Team Principal in 2005, and has presided over four consecutive F1 Constructors’ Championship wins since, with countless race wins to his team’s name. Just what does it take to win the way Horner does? And how do you give up a driving career to work behind the scenes? The Jackal sat down with him to find out.

You stopped racing aged 25 to manage your own team. Why?

Realisation. I’d focused on being a driver from the age of 10 or 11, and that was my entire ambition. But by the time I’d reached 25, I was racing in Formula Two and competing against drivers like Juan Pablo Montoya and Tom Kristensen, who went on to race in Formula One. I was reasonably good, but there were lots of reasonable drivers, and very few with the talent to reach the top. It was obvious to me that I’d hit my limit.

What was it like to flip your head into management mode?

I’d driven for several teams across the years, and I’d seen what worked and what didn’t. Fundamentally, it all comes down to the people you’re working with; whether six people, 50, or in our case today, over 800, Formula One is personal. It’s about getting people to work together towards a common goal.

Is the growing status of Formula E challenging Formula One?

First and foremost, Formula One is entertainment. Formula E doesn’t come close to it; you can’t hear when a race starts, the speeds are slower and many manufacturers are in Formula E because they feel they have to be. It’s like comparing rugby and football– they are both played on a pitch but they’re very different games. Of course, the technology in Formula E is interesting, but Formula One is modern-day chariot racing.

You’ve renewed your partnership with TAG Heuer?

TAG is an iconic brand. It’s synonymous with motorsport; whether that be through its relationship with Steve McQueen or Ayrton Senna. We share a lot of values – we don’t crack under pressure. It doesn’t get more pressured than Formula One, after all. Our lives as a team revolve around pressure; pressure on the track, pressure to turn around between races, pressure to evolve new technology.

What do you think sets Red Bull Racing apart from other teams?

We’re totally non-conformist, we’re not shackled by the same corporate constraints as the bigger teams. We’re a race team, pure and simple. We’re not trying to be anything else. Everyone on the team has a will to take on some of the best competitors in the world, whether that’s Ferrari, Mercedes, or McLaren. As we go into the race season, that sense of competition – and ambition – spurs us on.

What does it feel like to win?

That’s simple: pure elation. You have plenty more hard days than you have good days in F1, and you have to enjoy every hard-won success. When you do win, it’s the culmination of everything coming together at once, beating some phenomenal opposition in the process. It’s an extremely rewarding feeling.

TAG Heuer is Official Timekeeper, Official Watch and Team Performance Partner of Aston Martin Red Bull Racing.