Christian Horner on the time a World Champ ‘missed the opportunity’ to join Red Bull

Michelle Foster
Christian Horner pensive, hand to face. Austin October 2022

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner pensive, hand to face. Austin October 2022

Christian Horner has recalled the time Fernando Alonso “missed the opportunity” to join Red Bull just two years before the team went on their championship-winning streak.

Having ended Michael Schumacher’s reign when he won the 2005 World title, following that up with another in 2006, Alonso was a hot commodity in the mid-2000s.

Red Bull tried to sign him during his acrimonious season with McLaren when it began apparent that relationship was not going to last, but Alonso, with an eye to joining Ferrari, wanted a one-year deal when Red Bull wanted a longer commitment.

As such, the talks broke down, before Alonso’s people then approached Red Bull two years later, while Horner remembers there was another chat in the “back of an Alfa Romeo” a few years later.

But with the first round of talks the most serious of the lot, Horner says the Spaniard “missed the opportunity” given Red Bull went on to win four World titles from 2010 to 2013. recommends

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“We were very close,” the Red Bull team boss said in an interview with Motorsport Magazin.

“I went to see his representation agency at the end of 2008 to [sign him] for the 2009 and 2010 seasons, we offered him a two-year contract.

“Sorry, it was for 2008 and 2009, and he only wanted to sign for one season, but Red Bull and Mr. Mateschitz’s position was two years or nothing, and he didn’t commit to it.

“We thought he had a very clear contract to go to Ferrari in 2009. The strange thing is that Flavio [Briatore] was also involved, but he was trying to sign him for the Renault team, the team he was running at the time, and in the end, he ended up driving for Renault those two seasons.

“However, in the middle of 2009, I was approached to say that he could join the team next year because we would win the next World Championship with that car.

“Then we had another conversation in the back of an Alfa Romeo at Spa airport many years later, I think it was in 2011 or 2012, but again, the most serious negotiation was the first one, and then he missed the opportunity.”

And what a missed opportunity it was for Fernando Alonso…

Had Alonso joined Red Bull in 2008, he may have bagged a podium or three. Had he still been around in 2009, wins would have followed. As for 2010, well that was the first year that Sebastian Vettel won the World title with the German going on to win three more in a four-year streak.

During that same period from 2008 to 2013, Alonso won two races with Renault and was embroiled in the Singapore Crashgate saga, before heading to Ferrari where he finished runner-up to Vettel three times.

It’s been said several times that Alonso has a reputation for making bad career choices in Formula 1.

According to former F1 team boss Eddie Jordan, he could have won “four, six or maybe even eight” World titles had he just “picked his teams better.”

Alonso countered that by saying that “out of the 20 years I’ve been in F1, I’ve only had four frustrating years in a McLaren-Honda that wasn’t competitive.

“But for 16 years I’ve been fighting for podiums and wins and that’s quite unique.”

He added: “Sometimes I feel from the outside that people are a little bit sorry for my career moves, [but] the facts don’t tell me that way.”