Christian Horner has revealed an unnamed rival tried to cause divide between Red Bull and their sponsors over their 2022 cost cap breach.
As Formula 1 has become increasingly tribal, it is Red Bull who have become the archetypal villain in many people’s eyes.
The finale of the 2021 season, although not Red Bull’s fault, and the cost cap breach have added a new element to the persona of the team who at the time of their entry was seen as a disruption to the established order.
Even now as Red Bull cruise towards win after win, it will have done little to sway certain members of the F1 audience but Horner, a man familiar with playing up to the bad guy role, is all too aware of Red Bull’s reputation.
“If we had a British driver like a certain team in Brackley. We are too easily seen as the bad guys,” he told the i.
“It tainted us [the budget cap breach]. These things get used by your rivals. We had one of them contacting our sponsors and partners making suggestions that we would be bringing their brands into disrepute. That was just underhand.
“My wife has always said to me a pat on the back is only six inches from a kick up the arse. This is like the Kardashians on wheels. As long as you are comfortable with the decisions you are taking. That’s how I live my life.
“We play our music loud and have a smile on our faces. It has to be more than a job. And that has to come from the top. An energy drink company taking on Mercedes Benz, Ferrari, Audi and whoever else, but why the f**k not? If we have the right people, the right resources, the right culture why can’t we do it?”
Eddie Jordan: ‘I actually blame Fernando Alonso’ for not winning more titles
Damon Hill: Red Bull’s DRS is ‘going to get everybody’s attention’
Max Verstappen v Fernando Alonso compared to Alonso v Lewis Hamilton in 2007
Adrian Newey and Horner have transformed Red Bull from also-rans to title contenders year after year and in recent seasons, title favourites.
And Horner believes the target on Red Bull’s back is now larger than ever.
“There is always something, always a technical directive that drops, a game changer,” Horner said of the 2022 regulation changes.
“You can guarantee that the others will be scheming, ‘how can we slow them down’. It’s part of the game. Having lived through it before you become more seasoned in how to ride it out.
“The expectation coming into ‘22 with the biggest chassis regulation change in probably 30 years was actually pretty modest. Mercedes turned up with a car that looked unlike any others. And you think have we missed the target here? They have seen something in the regulations that we haven’t. Is this going to embarrass us?”
The answer was no as the team that Horner and Red Bull had long spent chasing are now several seconds behind.