Max Verstappen’s dominance with Red Bull has reshaped Formula 1’s competitive landscape. His exceptional skill and the team’s innovative RB19 car have led to record-breaking performances, setting new standards for speed and strategy in the sport.
The RB19, while undeniably a superb machine and possibly one of the greatest F1 cars in history, prompts the question: without Max Verstappen, would it have shattered as many records in 2023? In other words, how dependent was the Milton Keynes team on Verstappen’s prowess?
Sergio Pérez finished as runner-up, yet the battle with Lewis Hamilton for that position was nearly season-long. So, if Red Bull dominated the competition so thoroughly, was it more due to the driver than the car? Team Principal Christian Horner tactfully sidesteps the query.
“It’s not really for me to answer that question,” he demurs.
“I’ve led and managed this team as if it were my own, bearing a significant responsibility for the people here, the team we’ve built, and our culture. But it’s not just about me. It’s about every team member and key player.”
“I’ve always believed in hiring the best group of people and letting them do their jobs. Telling Adrian Newey how to design a car, Pierre Waché, Technical Director how to build or operate one, or Max how to drive would be pointless. It’s about placing the right people in the right roles and providing an environment for them to thrive.”
Horner, a former driver up to Formula 3000 and a team leader for Arden in the same category, maintains a modest demeanor despite his legitimate status in the racing community.
“I am a ‘racer,'” he asserts.
As such, Horner isn’t just any team director.
“The role I play within the team is a bit more hands-on than some, especially on the pit wall. I’m deeply involved in the race’s strategy, among other things. So, I see myself as the director of a Formula 1 team for 24 weekends next year, and the CEO of a high-performing tech company for 52 weeks, Monday through Friday.”
Horner, Verstappen Eye Continued Dominance
As Red Bull enters 2024 and 2025, two years of regulatory stability loom. Can Horner and Verstappen improve further after setting numerous performance records in 2023? When it feels like little was left on the table, what more can be done?
“You’re always learning,” Horner reflects. “And I think Max is the same. He absorbs everything and applies it. He’s eager for information and then applies it. His greatest asset is his adaptability, confidence, faith, and determination.”
“Sometimes, you see it on his out lap, or in changing conditions. His ability to adapt and become one with the car surpasses anything we’ve seen before. He leaves nothing on the table and wants everything.”
“This drives the team internally, and his relentless pursuit of performance is evident. He doesn’t just want to win; he wants to dominate. That’s a hallmark of all great sportspeople: a quest for excellence and dominance.”
But with looming competition and a major shake-up in regulations by 2026, when Red Bull will team up with Ford for its power unit, the challenges are mounting.
“It’s the biggest challenge Red Bull has faced – designing and building its own engine,” Horner admits.
“For us, this is huge. Taking on brands like Mercedes, Ferrari, Honda, Renault, and Audi with Ford’s backing is a monumental challenge. And we’re not underestimating it. I’m looking forward to this opportunity.”
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