FORMULA 1 2015 FIRST PICTURES!
As the four-time champions celebrate their tenth year in F1, former Red Bull racer David Coulthard remembers driving for them back in the early days
In the middle of 2003 I knew that I wouldn’t be staying at McLaren beyond 2004, so I started having conversations with Jaguar Racing about my future in Formula 1. During the Monaco Grand Prix weekend that year, I remember having a meeting with my manager, Martin Brundle, and Jaguar bosses Dave Pitchforth and Mark Gillan. Red Bull’s acquisition of the team came through very late in the day and, to be honest, I had quite a lot of doubts about the team’s new setup.
Martin went to speak with Helmut Marko and it was agreed that I would do a test for the team. At that stage I didn’t have a contract, but they were keen for me to sign.
I’ll never forget that rst test. I was slowly getting ready to get into the car, at which point Mark Gillan came over and was furious that I wasn’t in the cockpit already. He was shouting at me, saying that people’s jobs depended on this test. I replied that I didn’t need to be here and that, frankly, you never go out rst on a test day. The track is so green, it’s for someone else to hit that branch that hasn’t been cleared up yet. I got out of the car after the installation lap, phoned Martin and said, ‘get me out of here’. I didn’t want to do the second day.
I’LL NEVER FORGET THAT FIRST TEST. I GOT OUT OF THE CAR AFTER THE INSTALLATION LAP, PHONED MARTIN AND SAID, ‘GET ME OUT OF HERE’. I DIDN’T WANT TO DO THE SECOND DAY.
Then it all changed. Christian Horner came in and he was a breath of fresh air. I also went to see Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz in Salzburg to nd out what his investment would be.
During that time, a lot of people were talking about ‘the boss’ in Austria as if he was some sort of mystical gure. But I didn’t have any preconceived ideas: as far as I was concerned, I was just going to visit the owner of a big company who was going to buy a grand prix team. I found him surprisingly down to earth.
I decided to get involved because I believed in Dietrich’s commitment. I remember sitting with Martin in my apartment and going through a very simple list of pros and cons of what we knew and what we believed might happen – and in the end we decided to go with it.
I also remember Christian Horner’s mantra at the time to the media, it was rst to establish credibility and then secondly to concentrate on performance. I think the legacy of Red Bull in the fullness of time will not be solely because they have dominated a period of Formula 1: there is enough depth of talent and experience to be able to handle the lean days too.
Back in 2005 the paddock was a fairly cold and unwelcoming place. What Red Bull did was to open it up and that is one thing they will be remembered for. They have a motorhome dubbed ‘The Energy Station’ and the policy is ‘everyone’s welcome’. The team also showed that they didn’t take themselves too seriously by
producing a fun daily magazine for the paddock, The Red Bulletin. They proved they could accept competition in a erce way on the race track, but there was also a paddock camaraderie.
What I enjoyed most about the end of my F1 career was that it wasn’t overcomplicated. Okay, there was an element of frustration because the gearboxes kept breaking, the pace wasn’t there and we had a Renault engine at a time when Ferrari’s was better – as proved by Toro Rosso’s 2008 victory at Monza in the talented hands of Sebastian Vettel.
We were also starting to understand how difcult it was to win in Formula 1, because, initially, there was a diluting of resources with Toro Rosso using a Red-Bull-designed car. But in more recent seasons, in the hands of Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber and Daniel Ricciardo, it has grown to a level that I couldn’t have taken it to.
But there was some success in our debut year. I nished fourth in the rst race of 2005 in Melbourne. I thought that was okay, as I wasn’t expecting fourth place. I’ll never forget the hug Christian gave me. He hugged me in a way that could only have come from a man who was having his rst race as principal of a team who had managed to score points when they weren’t expecting it.
That really helped me to adjust my sights, not because my expectation of the team at that time was of victories, but previously a good day was winning and anything other than that was a bad day. That’s what I had been preconditioned to deal with over the past ten seasons. So it made me realise that I could enjoy a small success.
As Red Bull began to improve in the sport, I don’t think there was a conscious decision to say ‘let’s not have fun now’, but it’s a natural process. When you have a lot to lose, that focuses minds. As the car got better and better, the expectation changed, too: this could be a winning car. Then comes the expectation this could be a championship- winning car, and then comes the expectation of winning multiple championships. It just keeps changing.
So not having the ‘Formula Una’ girls and the parties isn’t because they can’t, it’s because that’s not the focus now. At the start it was get noticed, get established, get credibility and show off the Red Bull way. Then it was recruitment. Who do we need? How do we get them? It’s all a process. It’s not by accident… it has been well managed.
Success is about having the right people in the right roles and you need them to be motivated and empowered. There is a natural period in life where the honeymoon period passes and then you get on with the business of being married. It doesn’t mean that it’s not a long-lasting marriage, but you
CHRISTIAN HORNER’S MANTRA WAS FIRST TO ESTABLISH CREDIBILITY AND THEN TO CONCENTRATE ON PERFORMANCE
can’t replicate all the nervous energy and excitement of the early days. Nobody can. But with good management you can keep moving people forwards, empowering them, and giving them responsibilities that allow them lots of personal challenges – because in this business, people like to be challenged.
Irrespective of whether you know him or like him, the way Christian has managed the team – when he was recruited, he was the youngest team principal ever – and the way he has kept them together for so long is down to his man-management skills. He has a rm way of working – few other people can be more aggressive in the way they say, “Let me tell you everything I know and then reiterate what you don’t know.”
What Red Bull have gone on to achieve in the sport has been incredible, and along the way they have carried out some brilliant publicity stunts around the world, too – some of which I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of. To have 100,000 people turn out on the main avenue in a city in Argentina, or to drive an F1 car through the Lincoln Tunnel in New York at 190mph, or to teach Tom Cruise how to drive an F1 car... well, Formula 1 has been very good to me. That’s why I am here to promote it, to say thank you and to leave it in good hands for the next young drivers who will hopefully get their chance. David Coulthard was talking to James Roberts
Teaching Tom Cruise how to drive an F1 car (top). The future: Daniel Ricciardo, interviewed by Coulthard (centre) and with his team (above) after his win at Spa.