Christian Horner brilliantly led Red Bull in 2023 as his team obliterated the field. The team won a record 21 out of the 222 races, with Max Verstappen winning 19 of them. Although David Croft has acknowledged that the 50-year-old Briton was by far the best team principal in 2023, he yet believes that there is one area of concern.
In a recent episode of the Sky Sports F1 podcast, Croft said, “I don’t think he (Horner) always gets everything right. I think he still has problems behind the scenes. And dealing with the drivers is his biggest problem, not necessarily as characters but the people behind the drivers and trying to keep everybody happy, which is a nice problem to have when you’ve got the winning car.”
Croft is most likely referring to Sergio Perez, who struggled massively in 2023. The Mexican driver started off the season on a high with two race wins from the first four Grands Prix.
That initial success turned out to be short-lived as he immediately hit a slump in form. Horner, however, kept backing Perez and rubbished the rumors that Red Bull may sack the 33-year-old.
The decision to back Perez perhaps stems from Red Bull’s earlier learnings. It is not easy matching Max Verstappen in the same car and this realization has begun to set in following the short-lived stints of both Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon.
While managing Verstappen’s teammates is a concern, managing the Dutchman himself is a task in itself too. Despite all the resources at hand, the slightest of inconveniences bother the reigning champion and he is never shy in letting his disappointment known.
Why managing Max Verstappen is a mighty task for Christian Horner?
Max Verstappen is undoubtedly the star driver for Red Bull. The management may, time and again, reiterate the absence of hierarchy in their drivers but the design of their cars to suit a particular style proves otherwise.
The 26-year-old commands better control over a car with oversteer and Red Bull prefers curating the car in that direction despite Sergio Perez’s opposite preference. This is the way the Milton Keynes outfit functions and to be fair to them, Verstappen has ensured that he has not let his side down.
Another fact is that Verstappen openly voices out his frustrations when the car or its setup does not suit him. In a season where Red Bull managed to win every race but one, the Dutchman found something or the other to complain about.
During the US GP, for example. Verstappen did not mince his words while letting his race engineer know the issues he was facing with brakes. This is something that Horner realizes and has therefore never reprimanded Verstappen for the use of crude language.
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In fact, Horner lets Verstappen’s engineer, Gianpiero Lambiase, handle the issue as per his wisdom. The duo share a peculiar relationship but know how to keep each other in check.
Therefore, this practice of delegating Verstappen’s management has helped Horner reduce his own workload to some extent. This way, the three-time champion practically manages himself.