We love cars at Autopia, so when the opportunity to partner with Richard Hopkins (former Head of Operations for Red Bull Formula 1 Racing Team) came up, we jumped at the chance. We’ll be running a series of executive roundtable lunches with him over the coming months, but for now, allow us to introduce you to Richard.
A. How did you get into the industry?
RH: I grew up with Formula One, I went to my first Grand Prix at Brands Hatch, England in 1980 at the age of eight and fell in love with it. I never really wanted to be a racing driver although I did dabble in my teens for a few years. I guess it was my lack of talent that was the eventual winner.
While at school all the pupils were tasked with doing a week of work experience in the outside world. It was actually my father who suggested going to a Formula One Team; I contacted Brabham F1, and they said yes. I must have made a good impression because they offered me a job when I left school… an opportunity not to be missed. And the rest, as they say, is history.
A. What was the best team to work for, and why?
RH: Over my 509 races and 28 seasons I only worked for three teams, Brabham, McLaren and Red Bull. They were all great in their own way. Brabham for teaching me, McLaren for introducing me to winning but I have to say the best was Red Bull for allowing me to run a team the way I believed it should be run. We had some great successes together and a lot of fun along the way.
A. What do you consider your greatest achievement in all those years in F1?
RH: For sure my own personal achievement is arriving at Red Bull at the end of 2007, where I found a team of over 700 who didn’t believe that they were capable of winning, and 12 months later they won their first (of many) Grand Prix’.
A. What one key thing did you learn, that’s transferable into the corporate world?
RH: It’s cliche, but the single most important element of any business are the people within. It’s so important that every ‘team’ member feels a sense of value, that their point of view and input matters.
A. What’s the future for Formula 1?
RH: That’s a big question, but it’s been around for over 60 years, and I can’t see any reason why it won’t be around for another 60. The governing body, the FIA, are key, they essentially write the rules and regulations, and I believe it’s been the regulations that have tempered a sport that used to be free for innovators to innovate.
There’s a big regulation change planned for 2017 that on paper sounds as though it could mix things up a bit… they still won’t sound like those old V10’s unfortunately. Will the money ever run out? I’m sure that the unsuccessful teams may drop out over the years, but that’s business and Formula One is one of the toughest.
I still feel the need to watch every race, even if they are broadcast in the middle of the night here, and I hope I always will. It’s just not as stressful as it used to be.