Unfiltered: Horner and Newey
When the director of the Oracle Red Bull Racing team and its technical director look back on their success.
“We lacked a clear technical direction,” he says today. “Adrian was the best in F1, so we just wondered how to attract him to us.”
Moved from Leyton House to McLaren and Williams as technical director, Newey was (rightly) considered F1’s greatest genius in 2005. That’s why during that same year, Christian Horner fortuitously (not) found wherever said genius set foot. “I especially remember it at Silverstone,” laughs Adrian. “He was there… coincidentally.”
“Then one day we had another similar exchange, and a man in a black leather jacket came out from behind the truck and said, ‘I’m Helmut Marko, here’s my card. We’ll call you.”
And Dr. Marko did call. Rear ? Newey joined Horner at Red Bull Racing and the team went from newcomer to multiple world champion to a better place in F1 history.
At the heart of this story: David Coulthard, 13-time Grand Prix winner and Red Bull Racing driver in the first season, whom Adrian knew from his stints with Williams and McLaren. A man who convinced Newey that a serious, well-funded and highly ambitious team lay behind Red Bull’s “party team” reputation.
“David is a good friend and I trusted his judgement,” recalls the British engineer. “[Red Bull Racing] always threw big parties, but could she be taken seriously? It seemed to me so by scratching the varnish.”
“At the time, Toro Rosso provided some Red Bull juniors with the opportunity to get noticed,” explained Horner. “And as soon as Sebastien was able to grab it, he showed he had exceptional talent. But he also worked incredibly hard. He was often the last one hanging around the engineering office at the end of a Friday or of a Saturday. And his debriefs…”
A commitment that, according to Newey, has prompted the team to set the bar ever higher. “He had a very methodical approach and went to great lengths,” he explains. “If he made a mistake, he wanted to understand why and how to do it better. And, in fact, he rarely made the same one twice.”
“This dedication also benefited the entire team, ready to go the extra mile when they saw how committed they were.”
“They are very different people,” said Christian Horner of Vettel and Verstappen. “Sebastien was very German in terms of work ethic. He worked very, very hard. Max, on the other hand, is a very natural talent, very dark, who has a hunger and a determination like I have never seen before. So they are different in many ways, but very similar in their desire to win and be the best.”
“Whatever happens next in his career, Max has achieved a lot in a short time. And he’s only 25. Just thinking about what’s in store for him is scary.”
It’s a fact: F1 is made of cycles. Pilots come and go. But after 17 seasons together, Horner and Newey agree they’ve learned as much in tough years as they did in triumphant campaigns. According to them, the human dimension of sport remains more important than all the rest.
“We were able to turn our backs to get through this period, and I think that’s one of the strengths of the team” explains Newey about the 2014-2018 non-title break. ‘After getting a good power unit back with Honda, we were able to respond.
Same story from the side of Horner, who adds: “This period was difficult because we had just won four championships and suddenly another team was light years ahead of everyone.”
“It’s very easy for an organization used to winning to lose motivation. The most important thing for us at that time was to stick together and focus on the things we could control. We saw a lot of loyalty and continuity during this period. Then, little by little, we won victories here and there. And the question of unity of power was always paramount.”
The 2022 season is already in the rearview mirror, and Newey, as a good engineer, is above all focused on what is looming on the horizon in terms of interpretation of the regulations. “Ferrari will not rest,” he said.
But if the future is uncertain, Horner and Newey know why their union – which is approaching two decades – has worked and will work again: “It is based on trust, friendship and mutual respect for what the other does” explains Horner.
“We trust that we can move on, do our job and know that the other is doing theirs.” abounds Newey. “It’s that kind of informal way of working, that trust and that friendship that makes it work so well.”
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