Unhappy Horner hits out at ‘negative focus’

2014 F1 season

Christian Horner, Red Bull, 2014Red Bull team principal Christian Horner criticised F1 media after questions over F1’s forthcoming races in Azerbaijan and Russia were raised during today’s press conference.

Towards the end of a media session which also included questions on CVC’s ownership of Formula One and the poor turn-out at the German Grand Prix, Horner complained “we’re only focusing on the negativities” after a point was made about Azerbaijan’s poor human rights record.

“Look, there’s a calendar that comes out in October or November,” he said. “We all have a choice whether we enter the world championship or not.”

“All the people sitting here are racers and they’re here because they’re passionate about the sport and they want to compete. When we sign up for that championship, we put our faith and trust in the promoter and the FIA and we will attend those races unless they deem it unnecessary for us to be there. All of you will be at those races, or the vast majority of you will be at those races and why, because you’re either passionate about the sport or because you earn a living out of covering the sport and I think it’s wrong to make Formula One a political statement or subject when we are a sport.

“We should be talking about the drivers in these conferences, we should be talking about the spectacular racing that happened between our drivers and [Ferrari team principal Marco Mattiacci's] driver at the last grand prix. We should be talking about what a great race it was for Lewis Hamilton to come through the grid, yet all we do is focus on the negatives and it has to be said, it gets pretty boring for us to sit up here and field these questions.

“So how about asking some questions about what’s going to happen in the race on Sunday, what’s going to happen in qualifying tomorrow, because if you’ve got these questions, please point them at Mr Todt or Mr Ecclestone rather than the teams.”

The team principals were earlier asked whether they had concerns about the running of this year’s Russian Grand Prix after alleged Russian-backed rebels in Eastern Ukraine were accused of shooting down a passenger plane, killing 300 people.

“Obviously what’s going on in Russia and that part of the world at the moment is of huge concern to everybody,” said Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams.

“But we’ve always said as a support we try to disengage from taking a political angle on these things. Here the FIA is the governing body of our sport, they issue a calendar and we have to take our direction from them and at the moment, the race is still on the calendar.”

Ferrari team principal Marco Mattiacci echoed the view along with Force India co-owner Vijay Mallya.

“Something similar occurred in Bahrain and we followed the FIA’s directive or recommendation,” Mallya added. “I think I agree with Claire. It’s up to the FIA to guide us and we all follow what the FIA guidance is.”

Pressed on where F1 team owners would accept commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone scheduling a race in any country regardless of its suitability, Mallya said “You know, it’s a not question of following Bernie”.

“I think the question has been wrongly framed. It’s the commercial rights holder, it’s the FIA. We race where they stage the events. It’s as simple as that.”

“I think we’re racing people, more popularly known as petrolheads. We come here to race and to win and to enjoy it,” he explained. “The governance is an international organisation called the FIA. It is up to the FIA to decide where the sport is conducted.”

“I don’t think that the teams, individual participants in the sport, should be holding their individual positions to determine social political issues that you have raised. The FIA is perfectly competent to determine where Formula One should be staged and not be staged.”

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68 comments on Unhappy Horner hits out at ‘negative focus’

  1. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 26th July 2014, 0:32

    All the people sitting here are racers and they’re here because they’re passionate about the sport and they want to compete. When we sign up for that championship, we put our faith and trust in the promoter and the FIA and we will attend those races unless they deem it unnecessary for us to be there.

    If people were just passionate about the sport no one would have bothered to change anything from the very beginning. People passionate for the sport should think towards its health, its tradition…

    I’m passionate about the sport. I love motorsport, it’s the only thing outside my relationships that can make me cry or smile. I watch a particular video on youtube and it gives me chills.

    So seeing Hockenheim totally empty bothers me a lot. Seeing races happening at places where they are BOUND to fail, bothers me. Seeing the sport turn itself into a show, with double points or so on, bothers me a lot.

    I don’t see where that passionate-negative focus link is… it’s the opposite. We want good things to happen to F1, not bad ones…

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th July 2014, 0:43

      @fer-no65 I agree completely. Just because you enjoy a race doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care, be aware or ask questions about the broader context of the sport, whether in a political, financial, moral or any other dimension. If you enjoy the sport you probably care about its future – so really it’s all the same thing.

      • greg-c (@greg-c) said on 26th July 2014, 1:54

        @fer-no65
        @keithcollantine

        Good points by both if you there ,
        I do have to agree with also with CHorner ,
        So much negative talk and while i agree one should speak out about human rights issues there comes a point when a sporting team just wants to play and leave political commentry to folk who deal with it.
        Im 100% sure theres not a team or team member that werent disturbed by what happened to MH17 aircraft , as also journos have the right to ask some these questions CH has the right to say ” enoughs enoughs . Ask Bernie”

        Folk on this site have the wonderful passion of F1 and can dig up all the positives to share, but when we are asking our sportsman / sports business’) to do the political work our paid politicians are supposed to be doing , its a bit much to ask .

        • Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 26th July 2014, 2:10

          @greg-c I think it’s understandably difficult for them to speak their minds and really say what they want to say. Also, we all differ in opinions, specially in political terms.

          It’s also not the first time F1 has gone / will go to places where the political situation is very delicate.

          But to hit out at “negative focus”, and saying “we’re passionate about the sport” so we basically close our eyes isn’t really correct either.

          • What’s wrong with saying “look I don’t think we should be going, but we’re under contract and I don’t think we should be breaking that commitment, either” or similar like some did about South Africa in the 80’s.

            Getting a bit annoyed at being asked and copping out by saying it’s nothing to do with them isn’t really the answer.

            Alternatively, why not take the opportunity to be positive, and point out that by going to some places we’re having to talk about some of the bad things that are happening there, which can only be a good thing.

            Moaning about others being negative is in itself pretty negative.

          • frood19 (@frood19) said on 26th July 2014, 8:42

            @fer-no65 i think he answered the question well. the others gave fairly politic answers (fair enough) and he gave an honest answer. i have some sympathy with horner if he is continual asked questions that don’t truly refer to racing.

            however, as others have commented racing does not exist in a bubble: there is no ‘racing’ without the wider context in which it takes place. bahrain left a bad taste (to put it mildly), probably leaving lasting damage to the reputation of the sport. on the other hand, should we really be racing in many of the nations on the calendar?

            -china (apalling human rights record, imprisoning political activists, questionable capital punishment, etc.)
            -italy (very active arms trade, still one of the few western countries producing landmines)
            -UK, USA, Australia (ditto, plus involvement in potentially illegal military conflicts worldwide)
            -bahrain (much discussed)
            -malaysia (sectarian inequalities)
            -probably most of the rest of the calendar!

            once you start down the road of ‘should we be racing here? aren’t they a bit iffy?’ – you quickly run into these kind of quandaries. so maybe horner is right…though personally i think he is naive.

          • tmax (@tmax) said on 26th July 2014, 16:10

            @frood19 well said. If you start down the road of who is right and Who is wrong or even whom Media is portraying as right and Wrong there is no end to these.

            Throw in a discussion as to which countries should host F1 races based on their Moral correctness , i would say we will not find a single race on the current calendar worthy of that… because every other person would have an alternate view about it. Added to that the selective reporting by media based on a lot of complex factors and vested interests makes it very difficult to judge anyone.

            I agree to @fer-no65 and @keithcollantine that just saying that we care about sport and do nothing about it makes no sense but in certain ways Horner is right. What do you expect Horner, Mattiacci, Clarie and Mallya to answer ? They don’t even have the power to speak about this even if they have an opinion. A team is made of so many sponsors and commercial interests. Any word they utter would probably cost them their career . Yeah probably Ferrari might not be selling a lot of cars in Azerbhaijan but a few of the logos on the F14T might be doing good business there, same case with Red Bull, Williams and Force India. The media is asking these questions to principals to generate some screaming Headlines waiting for one of them to make a negative comment about these races. They publish it for 4 days and then they move on the next circus !!!! After a few days they are like, What AzerHaijaan ???? What about it ????

            I did see a few Journalists tweet this yesterday when Horner was upset about that question. At least Horner has been smart here. He gave the media what they were looking for … A “Screaming headline” !!!!!

        • Jarnooo (@jarnooo) said on 26th July 2014, 6:49

          These are some of the most important people in the sport. It’s annoying how they don’t speak up and voice their opinions on issues critical to the sports health and image. It’s like Bernie has them on strings.

          It’s the same with double points. If some of the important people spoke up about it at the beginning, instead of half way through the season, maybe we wouldn’t have the stupid rule right now.

          • nidzovski (@nidzovski) said on 26th July 2014, 9:02

            @jarnooo @fer-no65 @keithcollantine I agree with you guys completely, and I feel very sad that F1 is constantly running away from it’s core thus losing it’s soul. At least that is the way I see the whole situation. But as a parent loves his child whatever it do I also love F1 no matter what. Still that doesn’t mean that I can’t “pull it’s ear” from time to time. And “pulling an ear” should be an habit if we don’t want to see our “child” going crazy and lose it self. “and I think it’s wrong to make Formula One a political statement or subject when we are a sport”. With this part of his statement Hornen is doing a total opposite. He politically answers to a question: where is F1 going? He is entitled to have an opinion as a human being and more important as a team chief of one of the biggest teams at the moment. Or he is seeing this sport as a pure business platform where, as in any big corporation, you have to dance as the music goes or else… As Lauda said F1 is losing people with real character and that is why we need more people who will criticize when critic is needed. But maybe Horner is just getting ready to walk in Bernies shoes after all. Either that or Red Bull’s form is really making him grumpy.

  2. mattshaw85 (@mattshaw85) said on 26th July 2014, 0:38

    All very well dismissing the concerns of the fans that the media are raising but the concerns are valid. Mr Horner and his contemporaries would do well not to bury their heads in the sand.

    There are a lot of negative issues to contend with and there is nothing wrong with gauging the teams views on these issues.

    • Steph (@stephanief1990) said on 26th July 2014, 9:55

      It just came across as him not bothering about what the fans think or human rights issues because his love of racing matters more. It was the most self centered and rash response I’ve seen in a long time. He literally just had a massive rant and it came across even worse on TV.

      • James said on 26th July 2014, 11:57

        In my view he was talking complete sense, it’s a waste of time asking the team principals about the poor reputations of countries and whether they should be racing there, the teams pay to enter the championship and run two race cars, if the media want to ask these question why are they asking the team principals, they are powerless, it’s the governing body that should be questioned. I can see why Horner felt frustrated, constantly being asked questions that if answered wont make any difference to the FIA’s decisions, the only thing answering these questions is useful for is filling the transcript.

  3. HoHum (@hohum) said on 26th July 2014, 0:45

    A little more emphasis on being a sport and a lot less on being a prestigious form of showbiz would make the non-political argument more persuasive.

    • J. Danek (@jdanek007) said on 26th July 2014, 19:22

      @hohum – very simple but insightful truth, mate.

      The sport IS the spectacle, and the fact that the likes of Bernie and Charlie and their co-conspirators in FIA don’t seem to want to accept this or even understand it should have triggered a massive crisis of confidence in the leadership of the sport.

      I’m not sure what degree culpability can be assigned to the promoters for not pushing back harder against FOM. One thing is certain, the current business model – which is incredibly exploitative and focused wholly on short-term wealth extraction to the utter, utter detriment of the sustainability of the sport and the quality of “the show” – will only deliver more of the same to us exasperated fans.

  4. Bendanarama (@bendana) said on 26th July 2014, 0:47

    What utterly spineless responses.

    • mattshaw85 (@mattshaw85) said on 26th July 2014, 0:56

      Absolutely.

    • nidzovski (@nidzovski) said on 26th July 2014, 9:07

      Spineless is the word I was looking for as well. This world doesn’t need a guys like Horner…

      • J. Danek (@jdanek007) said on 26th July 2014, 19:25

        @nidzovski – yes, Horner is a truly vile character who lacks vision and a moral compass.

        Railing against journalists for asking legitimate questions – and then doubling down the next day and refusing to even acknowledge the folly of his refusal to engage w/ criticism from the media – is a perfect example of Horner’s immaturity as a leader and clear indication of his lack of qualification to consider broader, longer-term strategic issues affecting all teams and other F1 stakeholders.

    • greg-c (@greg-c) said on 26th July 2014, 10:21

      What responses are spineless ?
      Horners ?
      The whole team principle interviews ?
      Or the above comments ?

  5. Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 26th July 2014, 1:08

    On the one hand, I won’t be fooled by Horner’s theatrics – claiming that there’s a ‘negative focus’ in the media regarding F1 and, in general, hitting a supposedly purposefully emotional tone. I think the ‘media’ – rather, people working in the media business – have the right to ask any kind of question which those who field them either answer or not. Blasting someone for being interested in the interviewee’s point of view conerning a particular question, I’m not OK with that. The reporter deserved a polite reply, in my opinion.

    On the other hand, I can understand he feels somewhat uncomfortable in a position where he might get dragged into some kind of political or ethical context he does not want to be involved in as a racer. Or petrolhead. And I’m sure most of the other ‘petrolheads’ there and in the teams share this view. I’d share it if I were to work for a team in the paddock.

  6. John H (@john-h) said on 26th July 2014, 1:38

    If the governance is all down to the FiA as Horner claims then what is the strategy group then that failed to veto the double points and is doing nothing to cut costs for the smaller teams?

  7. svianna (@svianna) said on 26th July 2014, 1:46

    It is just a matter of time until we have a serious security breach during a race weekend in one of these countries full of civilian unrest.

    Risk management has to be observed. I wonder what Horner and the rest of the greedy f1 entrepreneurs will say when a terrorist act blemishes f1 forever. We are bringing the prey closer to the animals. Don’t complain later.

    • J. Danek (@jdanek007) said on 26th July 2014, 19:30

      @svianna – meh.

      If “they” haven’t hit the Tour de France by now, they’re not going to hit F1 (at least not before targeting the Tour).

      And the only country in which there was genuine “civilian [sic] unrest] (I know you meant “civil unrest”) was Bahrain – and the race wasn’t run, correct?

      Countries like Azerbaijan, China and Russia have no domestic civil unrest problems b/c they’re authoritarian states that have crushed all opposition to the govts and tolerate no dissent (and even Bahrain has effectively crushed the rabble).

  8. Cornflakes (@cornflakes) said on 26th July 2014, 1:48

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44H10ZCCJp0

    Here’s the video of his answer.

    • John H (@john-h) said on 26th July 2014, 8:28

      Thanks for the link. Having watched it, you actually have to admire Horner for his response. I don’t necessarily agree that these questions should just be pointed at Bernie and Todt, but Horner makes his point well.

      The teams should be concerned about what Bernie is doing to their sport though. I think we all know why Abu Dhabi has got double points and why Baku has got a race, and it has nothing to do with the fans or the long term health of F1.

  9. Irejag (@irejag) said on 26th July 2014, 1:50

    I agree with Mr. Horner. I feel that sports (regardless of which sport it is) are form of entertainment. And as entertainment, their purpose is to distract us from the issues we face for an hour or two so that we can enjoy life. No one likes negativity, and no one likes to be around negative people all of the time. To focus on negative subjects counteracts the whole point of the entertainment world. With that said, if the teams don’t want to answer questions about Russia or poor attendance, they don’t have to. And with the way that the media is now a days, they were likely pestering the those being interviewed with the same questions over and over again.
    Mr. Horner is right to say that it is better to focus on the positives than the negatives. If he or the other team officials want to express an opinion they will likely do so at their own discretion, but most likely they won’t because their PR people are telling them to keep their mouths shut about certain subjects.
    And speaking of opinions, here is mine. The only way that any GP should be cancelled is if there is a high likelihood of physical harm to the teams or fans. Sochi is far enough away from the disputed area to be free of threat, so there is no reason to cancel the race. F1 is not a political entity, nor do they have any obligation to caress the moral senses of anyone. Their job is to make money and entertain, both of which they would fail at if they cancelled the race.
    It is time for the media to put this issue to bed.

    • helava said on 26th July 2014, 1:59

      While theoretically, I agree with the idea that sport shouldn’t be tied to the issues of the day, the problem is that sports are also *business*, and F1 in particular moves a lot of money into various peoples’ hands. As a consumer of entertainment, and a participant in the capitalist nature of that business, it’s my right, and I believe my responsibility, to understand where my money is going, and try to ensure that it is going to places I *want it to go*.

      When F1 ignores the situation in Bahrain, or they ignore the situation in Russia, in doing so they’re not simply remaining neutral – they’re actually paying people, rewarding them, in spite of otherwise monstrous behaviour. You can bury your head in the sand and ignore that this is happening, or you can try to change it.

      One way to change it is to complain. Yes, it may not be the most effective means of changing something, but it is certainly *a* way. Horner is pissed because these questions keep coming up. They keep coming up because F1’s viewership is asking where the moral backbone of the FIA is. If journalists continue to pursue this line of questioning, eventually the team bosses will turn to the FIA and say, “Look, this is hurting our business. Change your behaviour.” Without that pressure, that never happens.

      Another way to effect change is to withhold money. Don’t watch the races in places when they’re held in objectionable places. If the viewership numbers decrease, or enough people cancel their cable subscriptions, that’s a pretty strong statement. Or if you tell advertisers who support F1 at those races that you’ll refrain from buying their products, they’ll convey that message *very clearly* to the FIA as well.

      But if you simply say “entertainment should be above all this” or “sport should be above all this” then what you’re doing is tacitly supporting the Bahraini regime, or the Russians. And that’s fine, as long as you’re willing to acknowledge what you’re doing. But if you pretend they’re not engaged with each other, you’re lying to yourself, and everyone else.

    • JohnH (@johnrkh) said on 26th July 2014, 2:18

      NO! Remember apartheid? it was seriously undermined by sporting and business bans that eventually lead to a white Prime Minister making the call to end apartheid forever. Major sporting events only give credibility to tyrants.

      • Klon (@klon) said on 26th July 2014, 3:19

        It was seriously undermined by sporting and business bans that eventually lead to a white Prime Minister making the call to end apartheid forever.

        See that bold part? That was the only one that actually made a difference. Sporting bans are at best an annoyance and literally won’t change jack.

      • uan (@uan) said on 26th July 2014, 4:18

        @johnrkh

        remember last years South African GP? Oh wait, no. There wasn’t one. Hasn’t been one since the boycott to end Apartheid.

        The boycott worked because it wasn’t just sports. It was businesses, etc. If it’s bad for F1 to go to Russia or Bahrain, the pull out all commercial interests, etc. Why should F1 be the ones to shoulder the responsibility.

        It’s not like you’re going to see Skye Sports covering F1 there. Horner makes a good point, the media will still be there. Of course, they make it out that they need to be there to cover the “news”. But it’s all about money.

        Horner was basically saying, hey Kettle, meet Pot.

        • JohnH (@johnrkh) said on 26th July 2014, 4:48

          remember last years South African GP? Oh wait, no. There wasn’t one. Hasn’t been one since the boycott to end Apartheid.

          Oh except for 92 & 93 when costs not Apartheid closed it down for good. :)

          • Sven (@crammond) said on 26th July 2014, 8:25

            South Africa 93 should be memorable for having an on-track threeway fight between Senna, Prost and Schumacher.

          • Boomerang said on 26th July 2014, 11:43

            I can still remember Senna waving on the straight by covering Prosts attempts to overtake. Guy was dooing nearly 200mph looking in the mirror… Great race indeed.
            In this matter I won’t blow anyone horn in political matter but I must say that stupidity of the masses and how easy to manipulate it still makes me wonder. If majority thinks that the media is not serving political purposes should think again. Still remember Iraq’s mass destruction weapons story?! Large scale military intervention was justified, right!? According to media at that time there was no doubt.
            To cut the long story, we don’t know the whole truth. We know that people are losing their lives for stupid reasons ( greed, might, religious influence … ) and I hope that stupidity will cease some day…

    • bull mello (@bullmello) said on 26th July 2014, 4:45

      @irejag said – “I agree with Mr. Horner. I feel that sports (regardless of which sport it is) are form of entertainment. And as entertainment, their purpose is to distract us from the issues we face for an hour or two so that we can enjoy life… It is time for the media to put this issue to bed.”

      The media is raising questions about where Formula 1 Management is contracting to make money and race for our entertainment value. The aspects are inextricably intertwined. Different people have different levels of tolerance to certain issues. Maybe some people are more directly affected by races in certain areas of the world. It is possible that some F1 fans might not give it a thought until there is a race scheduled in Somalia, for example, and all the teams had to arrive by ship.

      Formula 1 management is responsible for where Formula 1 races, not the media. Injustices that happen in some of these countries are not caused by F1, but the media and fans have a right to question why F1 as a sporting business has chosen to do business there.

      I agree that sports are a great distraction and I do enjoy F1 races immensely. I do not always agree with some of the Olympic sport type boycotts that have taken place over the years. I can’t put on blinders and pretend that there are no issues.

  10. Bernard (@bernard) said on 26th July 2014, 1:59

    What they (FIA, FOM and yes the teams) clearly don’t realise is that most fans are not overly thrilled at repeatedly witnessing the sports’ adamant frolicking around ecological, financial and moral bankruptcy. Not forgetting also the woeful implementation and upholding of regulation. While the sport is busy guzzling the ‘Kool Aid’, there are only so many of us that are willing to stand by and watch.

  11. JohnH (@johnrkh) said on 26th July 2014, 2:29

    I have never regarded Horner as a particularly ethical man. He is very much in the mould of Ecclestone, he will finish off the job of killing F1 if he ever gets the top job.
    F1 is struggling more corruption is not what the sport needs, dump Russia!
    There are a dozen circuits in Europe capable of picking up the race at short notice, no problems no loss of profits….if money is all you care about.

  12. wsrgo (@wsrgo) said on 26th July 2014, 3:15

    While not completely agreeing with what Horner says, I do agree with one thing…we will be better served by asking these questions to Ecclestone and Todt.

    That would be a more effective line of questioning regarding a very important topic. What can Horner do, apart from say on the behalf of all at Red Bull Racing that they will be boycotting the race?

  13. bull mello (@bullmello) said on 26th July 2014, 3:40

    Methinks Christian Horner doth protest too much. His possible motivation for essentially a political speech to the F1 media to stop talking politics is a subject unto itself. The real story is that Formula 1 is an international sport in nearly every aspect. That is part of the intrigue as well as a source of potential controversy.

    Many of us, as F1 fans, would prefer to hear mostly about the drivers, cars, teams and races in the media. But, the tracks where races take place and by default the nations where those tracks exist are an integral part of the entire F1 experience.

    Formula 1 chooses where races will be held, not the F1 media. The potential for controversy comes about when nearly any country is included or excluded from the F1 race calendar. Where else is the media convened to discuss any or all aspects of F1? Maybe Horner would wish to censor the media questions to only approved subjects and topics. (And approved by who? Horner or whomever he represents?)

    The world is a smaller place as we are all more interconnected by the internet, media reporting and the relative ease of world travel. F1 is my favorite sport, but to put on blinders and ignore any of what goes on in the world around us is nearly impossible. Formula 1 management chooses to follow the money to different parts of the world knowing full well that people may have questions or concerns about where, why and what may result.

    People want to be informed and I don’t blame them for wanting answers. F1 does not exist in its own little world, but in the real world of today and all that goes with that. There are causes and effects, always.

  14. medman (@medman) said on 26th July 2014, 4:05

    This just in…Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA, in their infinite wisdom, have scheduled a race in the Ukraine. The race track will be built at the site of the MH17 plane crash. The greedy troll and his cronies strike again. Bernie the bastard would schedule a race in hell right next to Satan’s cage if the money was right.

  15. BrawnGP said on 26th July 2014, 5:22

    Not generally a Horner fan, but gotta agree with him on this one.

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