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Horner: Melbourne's what matters 16 Jan 2012

Christian Horner (GBR) Red Bull Racing Team Principal. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Indian Grand Prix, Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, New Delhi, India, Qualifying Day, Saturday, 29 October 2011 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB7 leads Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB7. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 19, Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, 27 November 2011 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB7. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 7 October 2011 Christian Horner (GBR) Red Bull Racing Team Principal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 19, Brazilian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, 26 November 2011 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing celebrates Christian Horner (GBR) Red Bull Racing Team Principal. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Korean Grand Prix, Race, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Sunday, 16 October 2011 Christian Horner (GBR) Red Bull Racing Team Principal and Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monza, Italy, Friday, 9 September 2011

With reports circulating about rivals’ progress and rumours of breakthrough technical developments gathering pace, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner admits it’s a tricky time for the world champions to gauge the relative success of their 2012 preparations.

But despite the distractions of the media, and despite Red Bull having yet to announce a confirmed launch date for their new RB8, Horner is determined to stay level-headed and keep his team focused as the first tests draw closer.

"It's always difficult to tell at this time of year," explained the Englishman during a visit to the annual Autosport International Show. "It's the month of January and we don't see any of the other teams so there are obviously bits of speculation that float around and snippets that come out here and there.

"We are focused on keeping our heads down and it only matters what happens in Melbourne. I think we have proven to be adept at changing to different regulations, but we don't underestimate McLaren and Ferrari or even Mercedes. We will only know where we are when the fuel comes out of the car in qualifying in Melbourne in eight or nine weeks' time.”

Despite wrapping up successive drivers’ and constructors’ titles last year, Red Bull have had no time to rest on their laurels over the winter. Instead, according to Horner, everybody at their UK base in Milton Keynes has their nose pressed to the grindstone as their preparations for 2012 continue apace.

“At the moment things seem to be progressing well,” he explained. “The factory is incredibly busy, as I'm sure all the teams are at this time of the year. And of course there is the added challenge this year of trying to pass the crash test before we test (the car) for the first time. But that's the same for everybody and we are burning the midnight oil in Milton Keynes at the moment.”

One area which is crystal clear for Horner is his faith in his driver line-up and he is confident that Sebastian Vettel, fresh from claiming his second consecutive drivers’ crown, could be an even stronger force in 2012.

“He is a young man, but he is one who has achieved so much and he has got a very wise head on young shoulders,” explained Horner. “Technically he is very strong, physically he is very strong and obviously he has got an enormous amount of natural talent and intelligence. But above all of that he’s a genuinely nice guy. He views it as a privilege to be where he is.

“He handles pressure tremendously well. I think the exciting thing about Sebastian is that at only 24 years, he is still evolving, he is still getting better. I think the best is yet to come from him. Sebastian can have a very long career ahead of him, he is genuinely passionate about F1, he loves what he is doing. I’m sure he can be around for a long time to come."

Occupying the other Red Bull cockpit this season will be Mark Webber, who had a tough 2011, winning just one race at the year’s final round and finishing third in the driver standings, 134 points behind Vettel. But while Webber did disappoint last year, Horner is sure Red Bull’s driver pairing is an effective one and is hopeful the Australian will be back on form in 2012.

“It’s very difficult going up against a driver of Sebastian’s calibre, being matched and measured against somebody of his standard,” Horner explained. “Mark had a difficult start to the year, but he adapted and he worked hard at it and he worked hard to understand the tyres in particular. And his performances grew and grew throughout the year and it was great to see him win that final race in Brazil.

“He has gone away and trained hard over the winter and his enthusiasm has rejuvenated and I think 2012 could be a very strong year for Mark. For us it’s a great pairing. They are at very different stages in their careers, they push each other very hard and bring the best out in each other I think.”

With everybody hard at work in Milton Keynes, Red Bull are still hopeful of getting their 2012 season underway at the opening winter test, which takes place at the Spanish circuit of Jerez from February 7-10.

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