“Formula One is such an intense industry and sport that it can consume your life and if you don't manage to have periods of downtime or switch off, you can't operate at 100 per cent,” he says. “You can't do that 100 per cent of the time and that's why it's important to have a bit of release that just takes your mind off things.”
We're watching Christian's partner, Beverley, feed the chickens as we chat and it's safe to say that right now he's enjoying just such “a bit of release”.
He takes delight in pointing out the two cockerels – standing tall amid the clucky brood. And he's swiftly on to an explanation of the 500-year old dovecote, elsewhere in the grounds, that now serves as a wood store. “They used to collect the doves' feathers to make pillows,” he relates.
Vaulting above us are a pair of skyscraping cedars, that are somewhere around 250 years old, that provide shelter, calm and a profound aura of timeless permanence.
Here, you sense, despite being a driven (and still young, at 38) man in charge of a title-fighting F1 team, at the epicenter of a furiously restless sport, Christian Horner is at peace, in a little piece of England that remains within, wherever his work may take him. In a heartbeat at the start of this season, that meant Australia, Malaysia, China, Bahrain. By the end of the, year, F1's busiest ever, a further 16 grands prix will have been contested, Horner at them all.
“Sometimes,” he says, “Beverley will call me when I'm wherever, with my head full of whatever is important that weekend, to tell me that some chicks have hatched, or about something funny that the dogs have done. And it gives you a certain sense of perspective. F1 is such a surreal world, that it's very important not to become completely lost in it.”
We're on the move, now, the three dogs in harness, taking a stroll down the lane past the nearby churchyard and on to the edge of a lake, built in the 1500s by the monks of a long-departed monastery.
Difficult to believe, amid such rural Zen, that the Silverstone race circuit, home of the British Grand Prix, is barely five miles from here (screaming motors within earshot on a still day), while Red Bull Racing HQ, in Milton Keynes, is a 25-minute cross-country blat. “At legal speeds,” Horner winks.
Then: “Listen,” he says, calling for silence.
A woodpecker is making its unmistakable barkrattling sound in the near distance (nature's own pneumatic drill) and Christian urges that we stop and look. Even the dogs heed his command, though they seem unimpressed at the delay. Hugo chooses to take a breather and parks his hind quarters on what appears to be grass. Except: “Hugo, you have a thistle up your bottom.” Horner's hound is unperturbed.
“It's so important to have a home life,” Horner continues (Hugo now more comfortably standing). “Just being able to come home in the evenings and switch off, deal with trivia and wake up the next day refreshed. It's a source of strength.”
by Anthony Rowlinson. Image by Desmond Muckian