Helmut Marko reveals expensive mission to convince Christian Horner to snub Ferrari

Jamie Woodhouse
Christian Horner, Red Bull, in sunglasses and headset. Bahrain, February 2023.

Red Bull principal Christian Horner wearing sunglasses and a headset. Bahrain, February 2023.

Red Bull faced suffering their most high-profile staff exit to date in the poaching mission from rivals last year when Ferrari came knocking on Christian Horner’s door.

The Red Bull team first arrived on the Formula 1 grid back in 2005, and ever since then Horner has been calling the shots as team principal.

And the former racer has been part of huge success at Red Bull, the team now five-time Constructors’ champs, while six Drivers’ titles have also come their way.

The most recent success was their 2022 title double, though it was during that year, specifically at the Canadian Grand Prix as per Blick, where Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko says Ferrari launched a bid to snatch Horner away from Red Bull.

Ferrari’s team principal at the time, Mattia Binotto, resigned at the end of the season, and Marko said it cost Red Bull “millions” to ensure that Horner was not the one to replace him, that ultimately being Fred Vasseur who made the switch from Alfa Romeo.

“It took me a whole night to convince Horner to stay at Red Bull,” Marko told Blick.

“And that cost us extra millions!”

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Ferrari tried and failed then to snare Horner, which is a narrative also true for their push to snatch Red Bull’s design guru Adrian Newey.

And Marko would recall an occasion where former Ferrari chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo was already celebrating the signature of Newey, before Red Bull talked him out of the move.

“The then Ferrari boss Montezemolo was already cheering in the paddock and wanted to announce the deal,” Marko revealed, “but that night we were still able to change Newey’s mind!”

Newey designed title-winning cars for Williams and McLaren before his Red Bull days, and recently discussed the “very tempting” Ferrari offer which could have changed the course of Formula 1 history, and gave his reasons for saying no.

“I was very tempted to go there in the past, it is a legendary brand,” Newey told Sky Italia.

“They contacted me in 1993, I think, and then in 1997, when I went to McLaren from Williams. And that was a very difficult choice: at the time my children were very young and I didn’t want them to change schools. Honestly, if I was 20 years younger…”

Horner and Newey then remain in place as key parts of the puzzle for the dominant Red Bull outfit, though another team stalwart has recently had their exit confirmed, with chief engineering officer Rob Marshall to end his 17-year association with the team and join McLaren for the start of 2024.