Christian Horner, Red Bull, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021

Losing long-serving staff to meet budget cap was painful, says Horner

2021 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Christian Horner has revealed the new budget cap set for Formula 1 teams this year led to job losses at Red Bull’s Milton Keynes base.

He described the difficult decisions which were made at the British-based team to reduce its spending to meet the $145 million (£105m) spending limit for the new season. Areas of greatest expenditure, such as personnel, had to be trimmed over the winter to meet the new-for-2021 financial rules.

Red Bull are one of the biggest teams in F1 by headcount, and have performance-related bonuses that hike up the staff costs when the team is winning.

Horner said the team’s headcount is “in the 800s”, partly due to its arrangement to supply parts to junior team AlphaTauri, previously known as Toro Rosso.

“We have so many activities as well where we supply, for example, a gearbox to Toro Rosso so those manufacturing staff are included within that number,” said Horner. “So actually, bespoke working on the team, we would probably be at a similar number now.”

Some of the lost staff have been with the team since it was founded as Stewart Grand Prix ahead of the 1997 season, said Horner.

“We’ve had to go through the pain of redundancies over the winter. We’ve had to resize, repackage ourselves. And that’s really tough when you’re saying goodbye to members of the team, some of which have been there for 25 years across its different formats.”

Red Bull took over the entry and facilities of the Jaguar F1 team in 2005, which had taken over Stewart five years earlier. Since its takeover, Red Bull has gone on to win eight world championships but has not been a title-winner in F1’s turbo hybrid era.

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“It’s it’s been really a very tough exercise and continues to be a significant challenge, particularly for the bigger teams. It drives efficiency into the business because it quite simply has to, and headcount is your biggest cost. Therefore, it has to be efficient, as efficient as you can possibly make it.”

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Horner’s opposite number at Mercedes, Toto Wolff, said his team had been through a similar restructuring exercise to meet the new cap.

“Christian described the difficulties for our companies to change the processes and the way we have operated over the last few years,” Wolff said in response to a question from RaceFans.

“We are really struggling to just come in below the budget cap, and we’re talking about tens of thousands of pounds and not hundreds of thousands.

Wolff said he is concerned plans to introduce Qualifying Sprint races this year, championed by F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali and motorsport director Ross Brawn, could push costs higher and force them to lay off more staff.

“We will really like to support Stefano and Ross with the idea because, as discussed before, I think it’s worth [it] to try.

“But we simply haven’t got the margin to go for it and then find out that there is an extra £500,000 or more that we have to find within that budget cap because that could mean looking at people again and that’s not where I want to go anymore.”

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2021 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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9 comments on “Losing long-serving staff to meet budget cap was painful, says Horner”

  1. Maybe it’s covered off in the margins (or maybe this is a ‘feel for us, the big teams who’ve had to spend our way to winning), but why isn’t the teams staffing being reworked so that a portion of them are seconded to, or flat-out moved to being ’employed’ by AlphaTauri, like Ferrari did when it shifted staff to being employed by Haas and Alfa Romeo?

    It sounds more like ‘these people were effectively redundant so we’ve let them go, but we’re also trying to make ourselves sound good in the process’.

    1. One of the major differences is that Ferrari’s “Haas” division is still at Maranello, whereas it’s harder to shift people (particularly if they have young families and/or don’t speak Italian) between Milton Keynes and Faenza…

      1. Ilanin, whilst the official headquarters of Alpha Tauri are in Faenza, most of the technical operations – which is what Horner is referring to – are in the UK.

        For example, the aerodynamics research and development division is entirely based in Bicester, and most of the design work is carried out within Red Bull Technologies – the independent division that Red Bull set up specifically for the purpose of supplying both Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso, as that gave them greater latitude under the regulations to share components and resources.

        Horner has previously talked about how they have transferred staff within Red Bull Technologies from Red Bull Racing to Alpha Tauri to comply with the budget cap system, so it’s very unlikely that there will be any staff expected to go from “Milton Keynes and Faenza”. If it is within their aerodynamics team, at most they might be redirected from Milton Keynes to Bicester, which is only 25 miles away: if it is an internal transfer within Red Bull Technologies, they’re literally going from one end of the building to the other.

        If anything, your comparison with Haas is flawed because most of Haas’s staff aren’t based at Ferrari – they are based at Dallara, given that it is Dallara that manufactures their chassis. It would probably be more inconvenient for staff to transfer from Ferrari to Haas’s team at Dallara than it would be for Red Bull to shuffle staff within Red Bull Technologies or from Milton Keynes to Bicester.

    2. It is also important to point out AlphaTauri will be a lot closer to the Budget cap than Haas for example. So it could be the case that if the Red Bull employees that have been let go cannot go to Alpha Tauri even if they wanted too.

      Ferrari is also entering Le Mans to avoid firing employees.

      I hope new teams join the grid (Not only F1, but also F2) and this talent is utilised. 10 is clearly not enough, not only when it comes to drivers finding themselves without a seat, but now hundreds of engineers and mechanics without a job

    3. It sounds more like…

      Nasty remark. A teamboss acknowledging it was difficult.
      But you would have been fine if they cut some rules… strange.

  2. At this point a new team on the grid would be great. More places for these people to work.

    1. Yes, but they aren’t exactly making this easy, it was already hard enough to make a worthy f1 debut for a team, now there’s also the 200 mil to pay, goodbye.

  3. Radical idea incoming – pay the drivers less, pay the team principals less, and keep more of the hard working staff that are on lower wages. Halving a driver salary still provides drivers with massive pay, yet ensures a heap of other workers can retain their jobs.

    1. Top staff and drivers aren’t included in the budget cap at this time.

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