Formula 1: Christian Horner talks ‘different challenges’ at the top

Christian Horner, Red Bull, Formula 1 (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Christian Horner, Red Bull, Formula 1 (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) /

Red Bull and Christian Horner have been at the top of Formula 1 before, and their stay was not a short one. Can they repeat the success they experienced in the early 2010s?

Red Bull are aiming to defend their Formula 1 world constructor championship in 2023 after ending Mercedes’ eight-year run of titles last year with their first since 2013, and they launched their 2023 challenger, the RB19, on Friday in New York City.

Their latest championship came just one year after Max Verstappen won his first title in 2021, ending seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton’s run of four in a row — and Mercedes’ run of seven straight. It marked the Milton Keynes-based team’s first driver title since 2013 as well.

Verstappen went on to win a second straight title in 2022, doing so in dominant fashion. After securing a record-breaking 18 podium finishes during his 2021 championship-winning season, he won a record-breaking 15 of the 2022 season’s 22 races.

As for team principal Christian Horner, this success in Formula 1 is not unfamiliar territory.

Christian Horner took over the team in 2005 and led them to their first world championship in 2010. The team ended up winning four consecutive titles — on the driver side and the constructor side — from 2010 to 2013.

Sebastian Vettel won all four of his titles during those years, including a 2013 season which saw him tie what was once Michael Schumacher’s single-season record of 13 wins.

Now Red Bull are back on top, and Horner told Beyond the Flag that, in some ways, it can be tougher to remain there than it is to get there.

“Both have different challenges,” Horner admitted. “Getting there is tough, staying there is sometimes tougher. You go from being the hunter to being the hunted, and suddenly you’ve got a target on your back and everybody is focused on you.”

Last year, the team’s biggest challenger was Ferrari, which beat Mercedes for the first time since 2012 with their runner-up finish in the standings. But after a rough start, Mercedes came on strong toward the end of the season and are expected to be strong again in 2023.

“There are different pressures, the ones we’ve had to deal with before, and I think we’re well-equipped to deal with them coming into this year,” Horner continued.

Verstappen has already solidified himself as an all-time great, and Sergio Perez has proven to be a more than capable number two driver, one capable of winning races and scoring good points when he finishes behind his teammate.

Additionally, chief technical officer Adrian Newey is still on the Red Bull payroll, just one year after putting together his most successful creation of all-time in the form of the RB18.

Keep in mind, there were some who believed that Red Bull would take a step back in 2022 amid the introduction of the new regulations, after spending so much time and effort developing 2021’s RB16B for Verstappen’s title challenge. Yet they ended up having their best season ever.

Red Bull must, however, deal with a 12-month aerodynamic testing allowance reduction of 10% following their small budget cap breach in 2021, casting some uncertainty over the potential strength of their RB19 package. That being said, expectations remain high, and both Red Bull and Verstappen are betting favorites to repeat (and three-peat) in 2023.

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The Bahrain Grand Prix is scheduled to get the 2023 Formula 1 season underway on Sunday, March 5 at Bahrain International Circuit.