Early Red Bull mid-season sacking victim recalls his brutal experience from within

Henry Valantine
Red Bull driver Christian Klien. Silverstone 2006.

Red Bull driver Christian Klien spins out in practice. Silverstone July 2006.

Christian Klien has opened up about his mid-season sacking as a Red Bull driver, with his contract having been terminated during the 2006 season.

Nyck de Vries became the latest in a line of drivers to have seen his association with the Red Bull stable ended early on Tuesday, with Daniel Ricciardo loaned to AlphaTauri for the remainder of the season to replace the Dutchman after 10 races behind the wheel.

Klien was one of the first Red Bull junior products to make it into Formula 1, but has revealed why his contract was abruptly terminated after the 2006 Italian Grand Prix.

Christian Klien reveals all behind mid-season Red Bull departure

Klien joined Formula 1 with Jaguar in 2004 but was funded through the junior categories by Red Bull, and even shared a seat at the team with Vitantonio Liuzzi in 2005 in an unusual arrangement at the time as both young drivers were pitted against each other for one spot.

Klien, now a Formula 1 pundit on Red Bull-owned channel ServusTV in Austria and a GT3 racer, pointed out that despite the circumstances in which people do leave the team and its stable, the loyalty shown to them years later to continue working with the brand is a sign of what the company stands for, with presenter Tom Clarkson pointing out the example of ex-Toro Rosso driver Scott Speed representing them as an ambassador to this day – who himself was dropped mid-season.

“It’s amazing, and that’s all down to Dietrich Mateschitz and how he shaped his company,” Klien told Formula 1’s Beyond the Grid podcast.

“The people who work there, they’re all very much the same that he liked them to be, or he was kind of the role model, and you can travel around the world and talk to different people who work for Red Bull, they’re more or less all the same.

“They all have the same mentality, and very, very loyal. That’s amazing [and] I think, very rare nowadays in this world.”

But when the topic shortly turned to how he left Red Bull back in 2006, Klien would not be the last to be abruptly dismissed by the team.

Having initially been offered a drive in IndyCar, the Austrian revealed that the way he handled news of the end of his contract in Formula 1 actually led to his seat being removed there and then, which he felt upon reflection was “understandable” on the team’s part.

“It was a very frustrating time, a very frustrating year as well,” Klien explained, “and it came to an end in Monza.

“Basically, Red Bull or Helmut Marko offered me a drive for 2007 in IndyCar and said: ‘We don’t extend your contract in Formula 1, but we’ll offer you a drive in IndyCar’, and I said: ‘No, I would like to stay in Formula 1. I feel like I have unfinished business here.’

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“I said no to that offer, and probably the mistake I did back then I did that publicly on Austrian television. I said no to that offer, and that didn’t come down very well with Helmut and then obviously, after the race in Monza, he said: ‘Okay, Christian, we finish it now!’

“There was so much going on behind [closed] doors that I was really, really frustrated with the situation and the way it [was] brought up to me, it wasn’t very nice.

“So my reaction was probably wrong, but even the result, that reaction, I didn’t want to go to IndyCars.

“And anyway, I felt I had unfinished business in Formula 1, I definitely wanted to stay in F1. Even if that meant if I had to break up with Red Bull, who made everything possible for me to get into F1.”

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