Red Bull’s title-winning boss features in a special edition of the Sky Sports F1 podcast to reflect on his team’s record-breaking 2023 campaign; Listen in full as Christian Horner talks drivers, rivals, the growth of F1, and the story behind THAT photo with Toto Wolff
Friday 8 December 2023 10:21, UK
Red Bull boss Christian Horner has explained why being team-mate to world champion Max Verstappen represents such a "tough gig".
The title-winning Red Bull team principal, who has overseen the most dominant championship win in F1's history, featured on a special edition of the Sky Sports F1 podcast in which he discussed the team's record season, drivers Verstappen and Sergio Perez, his relationship with Mercedes rival Toto Wolff, and much more.
Listen to the podcast in full below:
On triple champion Verstappen, Horner said it was "impossible to fault the season he's had" and that it was the Dutchman's relentless on track that made it such a challenge for current team-mate Sergio Perez, and others before him, to go up against.
"We always field the most competitive cars that we can, there's never a difference between the two cars," said Horner.
"We had an era with Sebastian [Vettel] where he was incredibly dominant, and it was difficult to be his team-mate.
"Now with Max, exactly the same thing.
"He is a machine. He is arguably, certainly the best driver currently in Formula 1, as a three-time world champion, and to be his team-mate is incredibly tough. If you are not psychologically strong you won't cope with being his team-mate. It's as simple as that.
"He's just relentless in his pace, in the way that he operates, and I think that's been one of the positives with Checo [Perez] that he's had the strength of character to be able to deal with that. We have seen it sort of break others in the past. It's a tough gig to be his team-mate."
Asked whether, as Verstappen gets even more experienced, Red Bull would ever consider pairing him with a young junior driver, Horner replied: "The expectations on the Red Bull drivers are so high it would be very unfair to put a junior straight in to Red Bull Racing.
"That's the luxury of having AlphaTauri. It has provided Max, it has provided Seb, Daniel Ricciardo, so many of our drivers over the years have come out of AlphaTauri cars."
The 33-year-old Perez will start his fourth season alongside the Dutchman in 2024 in what stands as the final year of his current contract.
Asked what New Year's resolutions would be for each of his drivers, Horner said of Perez's: "His biggest resolution would be to sort his qualifying out.
"That's been his Achilles' heel at certain points this year and, if he can do that, then his race pace is always strong, he races very well.
"We need him qualifying nearer the front, nearer to Max and putting more pressure on. We can't afford for him to go missing at certain points of the championship and [not] have that consistency.
"He finished second this year, third last year, and fourth the year before so he's on the right trajectory."
Horner said in a separate interview with Sky Sports News this week that "everything is open" regarding their driver options next to Verstappen in 2025, with internal and external candidates in the running.
In addition to incumbent Perez, Daniel Ricciardo, who rejoined the Red Bull fold this year and has returned to race at sister squad AlphaTauri, is in the running.
"When he came to us you could see he was pretty much done with Formula 1 and he wasn't enjoying it," said Horner on Ricciardo, who initially rejoined in a third-driver role after being dropped by McLaren at the end of 2022.
"But slowly that smile came back, that energy came back, and certainly that test he did in Silverstone for us mid-season was truly, truly impressive, and the work behind the scenes on the simulator, so he deserved the chance in the AlphaTauri.
"He was unlucky then to break his hand at Zandvoort. But I thought he drove very well this year and, most importantly, he put some engineering direction of the team with the experience he had. I think that really benefitted the AlphaTauri team."
"It's a piece of history now," says Horner on the team's all-conquering 2023 car, which won all-but one of the season's 22 races.
"What it has achieved is quite outstanding and, of course, so much of it was carry-over from RB18. Part of the chassis was carried over, a lot of the suspension was carried over, the gearbox was exactly the same.
"So probably 60 per cent of the car actually raced last year as well. The amount of races that some of these components have won is more than 30 races.
"It's incredible to think what we have achieved as a team so this car to have broken all the records, from the McLaren 1988 season to winning 95.5 per cent of the races this year, has just been phenomenal, and Max has been on a different level as well this year."
So what will keep Red Bull motivated to keep winning in 2024?
"Everybody is so motivated by success and of course Singapore still hurt this year that we lost the race and that's a big reminder, it's a humbling reminder, that it's not that easy and we've got some massive competitors that want to beat us and want to see us fail," added Horner.
"It's that motivation that charges us and drives us and that winning feeling becomes addictive and nobody wants to lose that winning feeling."
Watch our 2023 Season Review live on Sky Sports F1 at 7:30pm on Friday, featuring exclusive interviews with Red Bull team principal Christian Horner and Mercedes technical director James Allison. Stream F1 on Sky Sports with NOW