Social Innovation3 min

Technology drives F1 – and Christian Horner fully embraces it

Aston Martin Red Bull Racing principal puts teamwork and collaboration above all else as a recipe for success. Horner has seen it all and is having to constantly adapt to new technology and rules.
Written by Trish MedalenPublished on
Formula 1 is the biggest team sport in the world, and when Christian Horner joined Red Bull Racing at 31 years of age, he was the youngest team principal on the grid. Just five years later, in 2010, he became the youngest team principal ever to win an F1 Constructor’s Championship, the first of eight world titles with the team so far.
As student teams look to enter the Red Bull Basement program for young innovators, Horner shares his thoughts on one of the biggest factors in his own success: teamwork.
Christian Horner seen at the Red Bull Racing Factory in Milton Keynes, United Kingdom, 2020
Christian Horner
Like the student change-makers in Red Bull Basement, Horner was young when he began leading teams. He launched a team in the F3000 championship when he was still in his early 20s.
"I started and raced for my own team and that taught me so much about creating a small business and operating that team. Then I stopped [racing] and ran the team as the team principal, won the championship for three years in a row. And then Red Bull approached me to get involved with their newly acquired Formula 1 team."
It’s no surprise that Horner thinks teamwork and collaboration are “massively” important. He leads roughly 900 people across 22 departments, all of whom have to collaborate and communicate to achieve their goal of winning.
Our biggest asset, it's not the buildings or the machines; it's the people and the brainpower and the way they work together. People feed off each other. And when you've got that stimulus within a group, people bouncing ideas off each other, that's what drives the performance of the car forward. That's crucially important.
A lot has changed in F1 since Horner first entered the paddock. Nothing more so than the technology that is now available and used daily. Horner has embraced it head on.
"Technology has really driven our sport forward. It's embedded within the DNA of what we do. From a simulation perspective, from the tools we use, the driver simulators, the virtual world we now operate in with AI, they're all things that have changed the business so incredibly, particularly during the last 10 years. Huge corporations use Formula One in order to benchmark their technology and to stress test their technology before it's entered into the open market."
If you believe in your idea and you believe in yourself, you can achieve anything
Chrisitan Horner OBE
Christian Horner OBE
As a next generation team principal, Horner has been a disruptor in F1.
"We’re sort of nonconformist – the mavericks of the paddock. We play our music loud, people look like they're actually enjoying themselves. That's so important and embodies the team spirit we have. It's not less serious, it's just a different vibe, a more inclusive vibe. People have got to have the right forums in which they can put ideas forward and look objectively at problems and solutions."
Christian Horner and Max Verstappen talk in the garage during day three of F1 Winter Testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 20, 2019 in Montmelo, Spain.
Talking tactics with Max Verstappen
Horner is also proud of the way that the teamwork of the entire Formula One family brings disruptive technology to the wider world.
"Formula One is the epitome of teamwork. We're used as a lot of case studies: our decision-making process within a crisis, what our chain of command is, how we operate. And recently, with the ventilators that were required in the UK with the COVID crisis, Formula One collectively put its brain power into coming up with solutions that would have otherwise taken three years. We achieved that in in about a month."
When asked what he likes best about his job, Horner says without hesitation that it’s the collaborative working.
"I enjoy working with people. When you drive into the office, you never know what challenges you're going to be faced with. It's a race from March to the end of November and it's all about developing the car, getting the most from the team, the drivers, the strategy, all of those elements. It's about that team spirit that really brings everything together."
So as a master collaborator himself, what does Horner think about Red Bull Basement, a global collaboration that invites students in all areas of study to innovate today and disrupt the world tomorrow?
"Red Bull Basement is a great forum for bringing your ideas – your visions – to reality. For disrupting the world to do something different that will make a difference. Basement is all about encouraging creativity, encouraging inclusiveness. If you believe in your idea and you believe in yourself, you can achieve anything. So it's a phenomenal thing to get involved with."