In conversation - Bernie Ecclestone and Christian Horner 28 Sep 2011
Formula One group CEO Bernie Ecclestone and Red Bull team principal Christian Horner have plenty in common. Not only have both transformed ailing teams into championship winners - Ecclestone with Brabham and Horner with the former Jaguar squad - both also have a soft spot for 2010 (and very nearly 2011) world champion Sebastian Vettel. In a candid interview held during the Singapore Grand Prix weekend, both men were keen to chat
Q: Bernie and Christian, you both tried careers as racing drivers before foresaking that passion. Bernie has said before that he gave up after realizing that his talents lay elsewhere. Why did you give up Christian?
Christian Horner: I wasnt even as good as Bernie, so there was even less reason for me to follow that road
Bernie Ecclestone: It is good when people realize where their limitations are and draw conclusions for themselves.
CH: Exactly, I drew my conclusions! (laughs)
Q: It seems it was the right one
BE: I just ask myself how many team principals managed to defend both titles
Q: Ron Dennis with Ayrton Senna at McLaren, Renault with Flavio Briatore and Fernando Alonso and Ferrari with Jean Todt and Michael Schumacher
BE: But these names show that it is not that easy. Christian and Sebastian (Vettel) are walking in big shoes
CH: Then why do you tell me all the time that it was down to pure luck? (laughs)
BE: Because it is the truth. Look at your competitors: Ferrari, McLaren, and Mercedes - you dont beat them without luck! But the fact is that Red Bull Racing also did a super job.
Q: Has Sebastian surprised you both?
CH: No. And he is getting better with every bit of experience that he gains
BE: and there is no end in sight to that curve. There is still a lot to come from him.
CH: I was particularly impressed with how he showed his critics how the wind blows. All those who always claimed that hes not a real racer but somebody who prefers to bag points had to rub their eyes after seeing his courageous overtaking of Alonso in Monza. Right now hes the driver who sets the pattern. Hes got immense speed and breath-taking consistency.
Q: Why is he so good?
CH: Firstly, because weve grown as a team and have learnt from our mistakes from last year, and secondly because the title win boosted Sebastians self-confidence significantly. He knows now what he is capable of and builds on that.
BE: Sebastian has an absolute will to succeed but has stayed very grounded. No win, however big, will stop him being grounded. That is immensely important in this business. Seb is relaxed and will always remain true to himself - that is why things come easy.
Q: Christian, in light of Sebastians dominance how difficult is it to motivate your second driver Mark Webber?
CH: Well, hes still motivated enough to beat anybody except Sebastian.
BE: That Sebastian is better than Mark we know by now. But who is there who is better than Mark?
Q: From the current standings, youd have to conclude Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso
BE: There you have it. I think it is not right to belittle Mark. In context, driving with Sebastian, he hasnt got the easiest of jobs, because in my view Sebastian is the best driver on the grid right now
CH: And it seems all too convenient to underestimate Mark when comparing him against Seb. But that is definitely a huge mistake. Mark is undervalued right now.
Q: Bernie, how would you motivate your second driver?
BE: I would offer him more money.
CH: That is not good advice. (laughs) And lets get this straight how many drivers did you pay more to when you were team principal of Brabham?
BE: They didnt even earn big as number-one drivers
Q: Both of you have turned ailing teams into championship winners. What is the key to success?
BE: Good people - good designers, team managers and drivers. But back then, at the times of Brabham, I had a significant advantage. We were the masters of cheating and never got caught. Thats not possible nowadays! (Christian laughs) Today it is all about whos interpreting the rules best. That means staying within the rules but thinking outside of the box because the control mechanisms are too tight to take a risk.
CH: So that brings us straight back to having good people.
BE: Thats why it surprises me that Red Bull is so successful! Think about what they could achieve if they had a good team principal (laughs) (Christian in hysterics)
Q: Bernie, you were your own boss. You owned the team. But Christian has to answer to Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz
BE: I dont think that Didi is stepping on Christians toes. Seriously, Christian is doing a super job and Didi is not the kind of idiot to interfere.
CH: The biggest difference is that Bernie owned the team and skimmed the profits into his own pocket, making a lot of money. How did you negotiate with yourself between the team principal Bernie and the owner Bernie?
BE: That was not so easy. (laughs) But dont forget that Brabham had 70 people and the effort of running 70 people is significantly smaller than running 500.
Q: Christian, in Formula One there is a saying that if you win once they love you, if you keep on winning they hate you. Have you felt that - with the various accusations over your cars legality and the suggestions that you may have breached the Resource Restriction Agreement?
CH: I am doing my job and can live with it.
BE: Any other team needs a reason why Red Bull is winning and they are not, so they pillory Red Bull instead of doing their own job properly.
Q: Bernie, then why is Red Bull Racing so successful?
BE: With Adrian Newey they obviously have a design whiz, but it also has something to do with the mentality of the whole team. Everybody there desperately wants to win - and win more. They are true to the motto show me a happy loser and Ill show you a loser.
Q: Christian do you think second place makes you a loser?
CH: That is a typical Ron Dennis quote. But of course we want to be the best and win races and titles (laughs)
Q: Fernando Alonso reportedly told Vettel recently to think about joining Ferrari. Should he really consider that?
BE: Well, seeing the situation as it is now it would be an appropriate means to slow him down
CH: (laughs) and my guess is that right now the bull on his car is more welcome than the prancing horse. And if I had a say I would suggest that he joins Ferrari shortly before his retirement. We are proud to have him in the team and hopefully we will have many, many more successful years ahead.
Q: Bernie, weve seen a lot of changes going on in the teams association. What do you think about that club of which Red Bull is a member?
BE: I try not to think of them.
CH: I also dont spend too much time thinking in that direction.
Q: But then why does it exist?
BE: It is an unnecessary association of people who should put their sole emphasis on getting competitive cars on the grid. Its just more of what they dont have to think of. I look after that so there are enough financial resources.
Q: Bernie, do you have the slightest doubt that Sebastian will defend his title?
BE: Not for one single moment. Even if he decided to go on his holidays for the rest of the season there would be no one to take it away from him.
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