F1 Spotlight - Christian Horner
This week, we take a look at the longest serving team principle currently in the paddock.
Christian Edward Johnston Horner OBE is the Team Principal of the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Formula One team, a position he has held since 2005. This makes him the longest serving team principal currently on the F1 pit wall. During his tenure, the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team have won four World Constructors' Championships and four World Drivers' Championships.
Horner was born to Garry Horner and Sara Horner in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire on 16th November 1973 and was privately educated in both Leamington Spa and Warwick. His father and grandfather ran a components company supplying the motor manufacturers around the UK midlands. His grandfather had previously worked for the Standard Motor Company in Coventry (which later became part of the British Leyland group.) Christian has two brothers; Jamie and Guy.
This week we take a look back at the origins of another big team currently on the F1 grid.
Having started his own racing career in karts, Horner's career in car racing started after he won a Formula Renault scholarship in 1991. He competed in the 1992 British Formula Renault Championship with Manor Motorsport, finishing that season as a race winner and the highest placed rookie. He then moved up to British Formula Three for 1993, finishing second in the Class B Championship for P1 Motorsport and won five races before moving to the Fortec and ADR teams in 1994 and 1995 before going to the TOM'S team in 1996. In ’96, he also raced in British Formula Two.
Horner progressed to Formula 3000 in 1997, founding the Arden team. According to Horner, he set the team up with borrowed money, including a loan from his father, and persuaded P1 Motorsport founder Roly Vincini to take on the role of his race engineer. He bought a second-hand trailer for the team from Helmut Marko, who as head of the then Red Bull Junior Team, was one of Horner's main rivals as a manager in F3000. Marko would later work closely with him at Red Bull. Horner stayed in F3000 for 1998 and was joined at Arden by Kurt Mollekens, who showed good pace and led the championship at one stage. Feeling that he was not as quick as the rest of the drivers he was racing against, Horner retired from driving at the end of the season to focus on developing the Arden team. He was twenty-five at the time.
Arden also competed in Italian F3000 in 2000, winning three races and finishing second in the Championship.
In 2002 they won the Team Championship and retained it in 2003.
Photo Credit: Red Bull Content Pool
Then, in 2004, the final season of F3000, Arden's lead driver Vitantonio Liuzzi, with the support of Robert Doornbos, helped to secure both the Drivers' and Constructors' Championship titles. The team won eight of the ten championship rounds, with Liuzzi taking seven. Liuzzi was brought to the team by his manager and former Horner rival, Helmut Marko, together with sponsorship from Red Bull.
At the time Horner had based his Arden International Team at the Prodrive premises in Banbury, though soon after relocated the team to different premises nearby.
Horner had been looking for a move into Formula One and when, having tried and dismissed attempts to buy the Jordan Grand Prix team, Red Bull bought the Jaguar F1 Team in November 2004. Horner was appointed Team Principle in January 2005.
At the time of his appointment, which was only eight weeks before the new season started, Horner was the youngest team principle in the pit lane.
The team started the season well; at the opening round in Australia, their drivers David Coulthard and Christian Klien finished fourth and seventh respectively. Over their first season, the team scored more than three times the points that the Jaguar team had achieved in the previous year.
Over the course of the year, Horner was also actively involved in recruiting Adrian Newey from McLaren and he was announced as the team's chief technical officer in November 2005. This would prove to be a dream team combination.
Christian Horner and Adrian Newey. Photo Credit: Red Bull Content Pool.
Newey would not actually start at the team until February 2006, by which time the teams’ contender for that season (the RB2) was already designed. The team had switched their engine supply from Cosworth (carried over from Jaguar) to instead use customer Ferrari engines, which proved unreliable and prone to overheating. The team did however manage to take their first podium at the Monaco Grand Prix, where David Coulthard finished third. Horner, honouring a pledge he had made before the race, jumped into a swimming pool wearing nothing but a Superman cape to celebrate.
For the 2007 season, Red Bull had swapped the Ferrari power unit for Renault engines (passing the Ferrari supply on to their sister team Toro Rosso). Their new car, the RB3, was the first to be designed for them by Newey, though the reliability problems continued, and they suffered fourteen retirements across the season, scoring only a single podium. 2008 proved to be more of the same as both drivers suffered a combination of retirements and poor finishing positions. Coulthard managed to achieve their only podium that year - a third place finish at the Canadian Grand Prix.
In 2009, with their revised driver line up of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull achieved an impressive second place in the Constructors’ Championship with their driver’s achieving fourth and second in the Drivers’ championship.
In Part XIII, we take a look at the four time World Champion who ushered in an era of Red Bull dominance.
2010 was the team’s first year of dominance as Red Bull won the Constructors’ Championship with a race to spare. At the age of thirty-six, Horner was the youngest team principal to win a Formula One Constructors' Championship. Driver Sebastian Vettel also took the World Drivers’ title.
They repeated the feat in 2011, this time taking the Constructors’ title with three races to spare. Red Bull completed the hat trick in 2012, again with a race left before the end of the season. Red Bull then won again for a whopping fourth time in 2013 for good measure. In all three years, they also secured the Drivers’ title with Sebastian Vettel becoming the youngest four-time World Champion in history.
In 2013, Horner was honoured by being appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queens’ Birthday Honours for services to motorsport and was duly invited to a luncheon at Buckingham Palace with the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh. He was somewhat surprised that the famous “Multi 21” incident was part of the conversation and said he found explaining what had happened to an interested Queen as “bizarre.”
Since the beginning of the Hybrid Era, Red Bull have only had a lowest Constructor's Championship finishing position of fourth and have constantly been on the heels of both Mercedes and Ferrari, beating both teams on several occasions.
In 2016, Aston Martin partnered with the team, leading to a partial rebranding of the team - now called Aston Martin Red Bull Racing. Due to the nature of the Aston Martin Red Bull Young Driver's Training Program, Horner has been able to utilise the talents of several drivers in the top team and winning races with the likes of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.
Christian Horner and Max Verstappen. Photo Credit: Red Bull Content Pool.
This edition looks at the man without whom, Formula 1 just wouldn't be what it is today.
The most recent driver pairing has seen him put Max Verstappen with Alex Albon - one of the youngest drivers pairings on the grid. Christian was at one time tipped by some to be the successor to Bernie Ecclestone, though tactfully distanced himself from the suggestions.
Christian has been married to his wife Geri since October 2016. The couple have a son. Horner is also an avid Coventry City F.C. supporter. The family also own a number of animals with one of their dogs named after Bernie himself and another called Flavio! Sadly, Bernie the dog passed away recently.
When the 2020 season finally gets going, one thing will be for certain - Red Bull with Horner at the helm will make for a formidable opponent once again.
Photo Credit: Red Bull Content Pool.
Is Horner one of the best team principles of all time? What do you think of his story? Let me know in the comments below.