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

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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.


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 difcult 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


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.

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