Horner: Investment interest in Formula 1 has never been higher

Max Verstappen's championship victory last year has attracted significant revenue for the Red Bull team after seven seasons of Mercedes dominance.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes that Formula 1 is currently more valuable than ever after last season’s remarkable title battle, the introduction of Netflix’s Drive to Survive docuseries, and the implementation of a budget cap.

Netflix sent film crews to the paddock in 2018, and have since covered three seasons of racing in a series that has opened to door to all-new demographics, particularly in the United States.

Season 4 is set to be the most eruptive one yet following the turbulent battle between Red Bull and Mercedes as Max Verstappen narrowly beat Sir Lewis Hamilton to the championship, and the Briton notes that his popularity has broadened due to his appearance on the show.

“Suddenly my profile has become a lot higher,” he said in an interview with ThisIsMoney.co.uk.

Horner was hired by Dietric Mateschitz, co-founder of Red Bull, after being recommended by advisor and former racing driver Dr Helmut Marko at the start of the journey in 2005 when they took over from Jaguar.

He has overseen nine championships all told in the last 17 seasons, and will now be tasked with landing a new engine factory near Milton Keynes, with Red Bull expected to make their own powertrains from 2026 after the end of the current engine freeze.

They were expected to start manufacturing their own power units this year after Honda initially pulled out of Formula 1, but the Japanese motoring company will continue to make engines for the Milton Keynes based team for the next four seasons.

This will create plenty more jobs in the UK motorsports industry and, having secured monumental sponsorship deals with crypto companies Oracle and ByBit, the 48-year-old is excited to invest in the new project.

“We’re basically taking control of our own destiny,” he stated. 

Article continues below

“There is such a hotbed of talent here and this is the first engine other than Mercedes to be produced in the UK. It’s very exciting.’”

Red Bull designer Adrian Newey was charged in 2016 with working on the Valkyrie track car with Aston Martin, and is also helping to develop a Red Bull hypercar alongside his F1 commitments.

Whether the energy drinks company will enter a hypercar into the recently born World Endurance Championship [WEC] category remains to be seen.

But their aforementioned partnerships with two companies enriched in advanced technology would suggest that the possibilities are endless – particularly for a team that managed to make a profit in 2020 despite taking in £230 million, compared to £245 million the year previous.

Horner suggests that Newey, having previously worked with McLaren and Williams, would be in dreamland were he to be given free reign over the design of a speed demon.

“It would be fantastic to do a car under our own name and potentially as a track-only car that allows Adrian total freedom to create his utopia,” he explained.

“He’s translating [his dream car] from his head onto a piece of paper as we speak. They’re well advanced with the concept and it looks insane.

“It’s basically taking F1 DNA and injecting it into a no-holds-barred track car.”

Red Bull claimed the Drivers’ Championship with Max Verstappen last year, but it was not without controversy after a controversial Safety Car restart enabled him to pass Sir Lewis Hamilton on the final lap for his maiden crown.

Mercedes were left fuming, and lodged a protest into the late decisions by race control – in particular former race director Michael Masi – during which they brought a Queen’s Council [QC] into the stewards’ room.

Horner describes the cataclysm of emotions as he went from wildly celebrating with his team to standing in a room with a legal counsel – something that he described at the time as an attempt to “intimidate” the stewards.

“Within half an hour you’re sitting in front of a barrister and the race stewards. You’re in there, sticky with champagne against a top QC,” he recalled.

“You’ve got a few of the private equity boys coming in. Investment interest has never been higher and there’s no team struggling, which is unusual.”

Mercedes would then drop an appeal into the championship classification, confirming Verstappen as champion and, from a business perspective, Dr Marko has previously labelled it as the “most important” title success the team have had.

With Michael Andretti attempting to put a team on the grid in 2024, Horner reckons there has never been a better time to get involved with the pinnacle of motorsport.

“The business model for F1 is starting to make sense with the revenues flowing into the sport and costs being under control and the commercial interest. Now there’s genuine value attached to it,” he added.

“The desire for Formula 1 is at an all-time high. Markets where the sport was struggling like the US are now flying.”

He then spoke about his wife and music artist Geri, who is often with the Briton during race weekends and shared an emotional moment with him after Verstappen crossed the line to seal the title.

“She’s very supportive, she knows what the pressure of performing at high levels is all about. Wives and partners, they bear the brunt of the good days and particularly the bad days,” he added.

Verstappen is set to defend his title with the team this year as he once again lines up alongside Sergio Perez in 2022.