Bullish Horner's quick impression

Formula One 2005: New boys bring a blast of fresh air to the pitlane and threaten establishment
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The Independent Online

Rookie test driver Vitantonio Liuzzi setting the fastest time in Friday morning's first practice session; Christian Klien and David Coulthard fifth and sixth after first qualifying. There were myriad reasons for such strong performances, but it wasn't a bad start for the Red Bull racing team and their boss, Christian Horner.

Rookie test driver Vitantonio Liuzzi setting the fastest time in Friday morning's first practice session; Christian Klien and David Coulthard fifth and sixth after first qualifying. There were myriad reasons for such strong performances, but it wasn't a bad start for the Red Bull racing team and their boss, Christian Horner.

The new regime represents more than just a fresh start for a team whose employment policy appeared to be based on the revolving-door principle when they were Jaguar. It may also signal a new philosophy in Formula One.

At 31, Horner is the youngest team principal in the business, his edge honed by two successful runs in the now-defunct Formula 3000 Championship that has supported F1 in recent seasons.

"Red Bull have a clear vision of where they want to go," he points out. "Dietrich [Mateschitz, the founder of the Red Bull brand] has committed considerable resource to the programme, given me total support and allowed me to run it in the way I want to. We share the same objective. I want to be competitive, I haven't come into Formula One just to take part. I'm a young guy and I'm ambitious. So I have a clear objective of where I want to be, and that is shared by Red Bull. They have to have something to market, and you can't market a team that's running round at the back."

Arguably Red Bull stand to lose more than they stand to gain, in terms of their hard-won youth market appeal, if they don't succeed in a game that proved too tough for a major manufacturer such as Ford-Jaguar.

"This is all about reaching the man in the stands," Horner says. "There is a different strategy in terms of the way this team will operate that I hope will appeal to the public. Now that Eddie [Jordan] has gone I think there is a big hole in the market. I think people will quickly recognise that Red Bull are coming from a different angle. We will be more approachable. We won't be using the Paddock Club to entertain guests, because the idea is to get to the guys in the grandstand. They are the ones who matter."

Horner is part of a new wave of management in the big league, together with Nick Fry at BAR Honda and Dr Colin Kolles, who has been tasked with running Jordan. The three of them were part of a press conference on Friday, and their straight talking was one of the more refreshing aspects of the weekend.

"We have to recognise that we are competing against each other, which is clearly key to this," Fry said, "but we are competing as a sport with a whole bunch of other sporting activities, like watching Desperate Housewives or American Idol or whatever it happens to be. And I think there is increasing realisation that while Formula One is very popular, our school reports tend to say, 'Could do better'. And that's what we have to do. We need to be adding more entertainment and listening to the fans. I am glad that we have experts like Red Bull, a marketing company, really involved. We can learn a lot from them."

The Red Bull team have an engineering department strengthened by the recent addition of the former Jaguar technical director Guenther Steiner and former Renault and Jordan designer Mark Smith. Coulthard, newly sporting the sort of iron-filing beard specifically precluded by McLaren, is clearly enjoying being in a position where the team love him. In a sport where the line between success and failure is finer than gossamer, nobody can operate at their maximum without the confidence of the people around them.

"The important thing is that the car is a sensible package and the drivers can commit to it, and that gives them confidence, as you can see," Horner insists. "DC is revelling in an environment where he is very much the team leader. He's the biggest asset that we have. At 33 years of age he's won 13 grands prix, he's been on the podium over 50 times. His confidence is growing, and this business is all about that. I've sat behind the wheel and I know what it's like.

"If you look out from behind it and you think, 'These guys don't really believe in me' it's a very difficult scenario to be in. It's clearly part of the strategy to give him absolutely full support. He's the perfect benchmark for the team. I've learned more from him since I've been in Formula One than from any other member of the team, because he comes from a winning background. He's never driven for anything other than a top team, starting with Williams and then moving to McLaren. He's thrown himself into the programme, and he's probably at his peak."

Horner, too, seems comfortable in his new role. "It's just bigger than what I'm used to, to be honest. That's the only real difference. The basics remain the same. You've got to have good people, you've got to react to problems quickly, and have a committed group who are all sharing the same objectives and are working together collectively. I would apply all the same principles that served me well before here at Red Bull, and the most important thing is to do the basics well. When you think about it, it's not exactly rocket science, is it?"

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