Christian Horner has claimed that he helped to convince Mercedes to sign Lewis Hamilton from McLaren ahead of the 2013 season, in a move that he hoped would put the megastar driver in a less competitive car.
Hamilton was leading the World Championship standings after the opening three rounds of the 2012 season, with teammate Jenson Button second in equal machinery.
Sebastian Vettel, who had claimed the title during the two previous seasons, was down in fifth, with Red Bull lacking in early-season pace.
That is when Mercedes, which had just won their first race as a constructor, began to circle for Hamilton's signature, as they looked to build a team to battle for the big prizes in 2013.
Horner has now said that Hamilton was "very keen" to join Red Bull during this period and had held talks with the team, adding that, with Vettel tied down to a contract until the end of 2014, the outfit were not willing to house "two alpha drivers".
Horner: Hamilton plan backfired on me
But, when Horner heard of Mercedes' interest in Hamilton, he claims to have spotted an opportunity that he felt could help Red Bull to more glory.
"Niki Lauda was at Mercedes and was very keen to take Lewis, and I remember encouraging him to take him," Horner has told UK publication The Daily Mail.
"We were fighting McLaren and, in 2012, they had the fastest car, and we felt that Lewis in a McLaren would be more of a threat than in a Mercedes.
"I encouraged Niki to spend the money as Lewis was wavering a little bit. It would be fair to say that backfired on me!"
Hamilton would win one race during his first season at Mercedes, placing fourth in the Drivers' Championship. But, over the eight years that followed, he would win 81 times and claim six titles, bringing an end to Red Bull's dominance.
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Verstappen will continue to grow after F1 title win
Hamilton, now aged 37, saw his run of four consecutive title crowns come to an end in 2021, as Red Bull's Max Verstappen came out on top following an intense season-long battle.
Horner believes that a first title win for Verstappen will have lifted the pressure, comparing his unlikely triumph to Vettel's 2010 glory that preceded a period packed with much to celebrate for Red Bull.
"At some point, Lewis will slow down or he'll stop and, of course, he is going to have a massive challenge with a very competitive, young teammate and hungry teammate this year, who is going to be one of the best drivers on the grid – George Russell is a phenomenal talent," Horner continued.
"In Max, at 24, we have looked to lock down what we believe will be the purple patch of his career.
"Having won this first World Championship, it relieves an awful lot of pressure. That is in the bank now, it is on his CV. He will continue to grow now he has got that first one out of the way. We saw that with Sebastian Vettel."
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