Red Bull Leadership Drama Christian horner F1 2024

Red Bull’s 2007 Turmoil: Horner’s Near Exit Revealed


In a dramatic twist to Red Bull Racing‘s history, a near-leadership overhaul in 2007 almost saw Christian Horner ousted from his pivotal role. This revelation, brought to light by former team manager Joan Villadelprat, underscores the intense Red Bull leadership drama that has shaped the team’s journey in Formula 1.

Red Bull Nearly Fired Horner in 2007: ‘Mateschitz Loathed Him!’ Villadelprat Reveals Job Offer. Despite dominating current F1 and securing seven drivers’ and six constructors’ championships since 2010, Christian Horner and Helmut Marko were on the brink of an abrupt departure from Red Bull.

Joan Villadelprat, a former team manager, discloses this narrowly averted decision that could have drastically altered modern Formula 1. He unveils being approached by Red Bull through Dany Bahar, then Director of Operations, aiming to recruit the former Benetton leader during Michael Schumacher’s era.

“Dietrich Mateschitz sent a plane to Barcelona to fetch me and offered to put Red Bull and Toro Rosso under one roof,” Villadelprat shared with PlanetF1. “The plan was to appoint me as General Manager, excluding Christian Horner. I agreed.”

“Dany Bahar was the Director of Operations at Red Bull. Actually, Helmut was no longer present and was about to be ousted by Bahar. It seemed they were at odds with Christian and the team in England. Dietrich was furious due to a lack of communication with Austria.”

“The two sides struggled to understand each other and were displeased. They desired more information and communication between the F1 project and Mateschitz. They lost faith in how the teams operated, and Helmut Marko took charge of it.”

“Bahar orchestrated Helmut’s sidelining. They then consulted people like Gerhard Berger [former co-owner of Toro Rosso and Villadelprat’s colleague at Benetton], and my name came up. They decided to talk to me and see if I was willing to take over both teams.”

“At that time, it was feasible to merge both teams under one roof, share machinery, and much more. The rules allowed room for this. I said yes, there were no issues.”

“All that was left was to sign.”

Villadelprat explains that he had even accepted the position after a phone call with Dietrich Mateschitz. The Spaniard recounts his years prior to the opportunity and what led him to consider this challenge.

“Actually, I already had a project that was nearly complete because, in 2001, I had left Benetton since 1999 to start an F1 project in Spain with Telefonica. We owned 50% of Minardi, then an additional 20 million pounds sterling and 100% of Minardi.”

“But the president of Telefonica was fired, and the other project collapsed. At that point, I went to Prost, and from Prost, I established my own team, etc. In 2007, they called me and offered the position – we spent three hours discussing with Mateschitz. We got along very well.”

“For one reason or another, communication was tough at Red Bull, and they wanted to eliminate all top executives. So, we said OK, shook hands, discussed my salary, and everything was set. All that remained was to put it on paper and sign it at the Monaco Grand Prix.”

Newey Clause Hinders Red Bull

However, a clause in Adrian Newey’s contract, the designer of Red Bull’s cars, meant Villadelprat’s arrival would have led to the engineer’s exit, which appeared to be a bad move: “Someone, I forget who, discovered Adrian Newey’s contract stated he would only report to Mateschitz.”

“He didn’t want to report to me, to anyone. So, me being in charge wouldn’t work with Adrian. He wouldn’t report to me because his contract specified he should only report to Mateschitz, and Dietrich didn’t want to talk to Adrian.”

“Everything was done, we shook hands and said, ‘See you in Monaco.’ But when we uncovered the contract issue with Adrian, stating he could only report to Mateschitz, he called me and asked what we could do about it.”

“I said, ‘if Adrian has to leave, forget it. It’s better to have Adrian than me. Let’s forget this. We shake hands and maybe another time, we can talk,’ and that was it.”

“Mateschitz or Dany Bahar, one of them, gave me six Red Bull cars for the next year, four in Formula Renault 2.0 and two in World Series, just to make up for the mistake they made towards me.”

Marko’s Contract Dispute Revealed

Villadelprat could have returned to the Red Bull fold in 2011, this time with Toro Rosso, but he had to decline due to a family emergency and his commitment to full-time care.

“In 2011, Franz Tost offered me a role at Toro Rosso again. It was to be something like Tost’s right-hand man, a Director of Operations role working alongside him. So, I was offered to go to Red Bull twice. But at the time, my son was battling testicular cancer.”

“I decided to stop and stay home. After that, I said no, it’s not the time to go to Italy, leave the family here and leave because I only know one way to work, 24 hours a day. If a family member is sick, you do what’s necessary to help.”

“But Dietrich Mateschitz offered me in 2007 to lead both Red Bull teams, and in 2011 to help lead Toro Rosso! Christian was supposed to jump, Dietrich loathed him! Christian is still there because he helped Helmut come back, but at the time they offered me the position, it was to get rid of Christian.”

Marko’s Contract Dispute Revealed

Once back in his role, Marko attempted to undo the agreement Bahar had made with Villadelprat regarding promotional formula support for his team, but he was met with firmness: “The next year, Marko came to me. He said, ‘I want 25,000 euros less in each car.'”

“I said, ‘sorry, we shook hands. We already have an agreement. If my team wins the championship, I get my five cars as we agreed, we shook hands and agreed.’ He said no, we can’t do that.'”

“125,000 euros, it’s not much. But it was a matter of principle. I told him, ‘listen, all you can do is stand up, leave my office, and get out of my house.’ That was the way it was between Helmut and me.”

“When I walk in the paddock, he lowers his head because he knows I can tell him he’s a damn bastard. I can say it to his face, and he whimpers. Helmut is an old bastard. So am I! I come from a school where, if you shake hands, you have a contract.”

Red Bull Leadership Drama. How to Avoid it f1 2024. Red Bull Leadership Drama. How to Avoid it f1 2024

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