Christian Horner says putting the number one on Max Verstappen’s car after the “pain” and the “fight” of 2021 has re-energised the Red Bull team.
Last year Red Bull won the Drivers’ Championship title with Verstappen taking the crown with a last-lap-of-the-season pass on Lewis Hamilton.
It was the culmination of 22 grand prix weekends of back-and-forth between Red Bull and Mercedes, the teams having engaged in one of the most thrilling – but vicious – fights seen in recent years.
It ended with Verstappen announcing he’ll put the number one on his car this season.
Although the reigning World Champion does not have to carry the number one, he can stick with his regular race number, a choice that Hamilton has made the past few seasons, the Dutchman was adamant he wanted it.
“How many times do you get the opportunity to swap, and number one is the best number out there,” said Verstappen.
“For me it was very straightforward to pick the number one.”
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Horner has welcomed the decision, saying it has gone a long way towards re-energising the team after last year’s tension-fraught battle.
“I mean, sticking that number one on the car after all the pain that we went through last year, the fight that it was in 2021, and now the fight is to make sure we retain it on the car… it’s just energised everyone in the team,” the team boss told the official F1 website.
“You can see a spring in everybody’s step and it gives people confidence as well, which is such an important thing in any sport – which is to not have arrogance, but confidence – and I think that runs through the organisation.”
The Briton is now preparing for Red Bull’s next fight, the one to retain the World title.
The team’s RB18 was the second quickest car at the opening pre-season outing, Red Bull’s fastest lap time 0.4s slower than Mercedes.
But with McLaren and Ferrari also within half a second of Lewis Hamilton’s pace-setting time, Horner expects this season Formula 1 could have four teams fighting at the front for the race wins, and maybe even the World titles.
“It’s what everybody wants to see,” he said.
“You want to see the best drivers in the world, fighting wheel-to-wheel, and I think Ferrari could be in there this year, McLaren looking strong, so you might have a few candidates.
“And don’t forget George Russell,” he added, “I think he’s going to be a key component in this championship, as well.”
Horner on the power of the ‘1’
Christian Horner has revealed the power the number one has had on the Red Bull crew.