Exclusive Q&A - Red Bull's Christian Horner 19 Dec 2007
Making an impression on paddock life is one thing - delivering results on the track is quite another. During their short history, Red Bull have thrown some unforgettable parties but, ahead of their fourth season, the team are hoping to finally raise the bar in terms of their racing.
With technical director Geoffrey Willis now installed alongside uber-designer Adrian Newey, everything certainly seems in to be in place for the teams ascendancy. Here, team principal Christian Horner describes the squads preparations for 2008 and reveals a little about what we can expect from the RB4 when it hits the track in January
Q: Christian, reliability was an issue for the team in 2007. What have you learnt from the recent tests in Barcelona and Jerez about eliminating this problem for next year?
Christian Horner: We learnt many lessons during 2007 and obviously reliability is a key topic that the design and development groups are fully focused on. The Barcelona and Jerez tests were mainly focused on introducing the standard electronics system, which is new for 2008 and will eradicate traction control and engine braking.
Q: After recognising the RB3s limitations early on, the team concentrated their efforts on developing the RB4. How complete is the 2008 car?
CH: For the first time in our short history, there is continuity within the design group, with our engine partner and with the drivers. The RB4 will be an evolution of the RB3, which showed good pace during the season, especially in the final three races.
Q: Is there a date set for when it will hit the track?
CH: The RB4 is scheduled to run during the third week of January.
Q: The alliance between Adrian Newey and Geoff Willis looks set to guarantee a successful 2008 season. Do you expect a breakthrough?
CH: The whole design group is now working together extremely well and Geoff was the final major piece within our line up. Adrian and Geoff already knew each other well from the times they had previously worked together at Williams and Leyton House, which enabled Geoff to hit the ground running when he joined us.
Q: Red Bull chief Dietrich Mateschitz announced at the beginning of the 2007 season that his aim for the team was to end the season fifth in the standings. This was accomplished, with the squad trailing fourth-placed Williams by just nine points. Is Williams your natural target for 2008?
CH: In 2007 we gave away approximately 24 points as a result of poor reliability, without which we would have been much closer to Renault and ahead of Williams. This is therefore one of our key focuses for 2008. With the same engine as the factory Renault team they, more than any other team, are our barometer. 2008 is certainly set to be another very close season.
Q: Now that Fernando Alonso has chosen his team for 2008, David Coulthard and Mark Webber are safe at Red Bull. Can you reveal to what extent you chased Fernando to get him into the squad?
CH: Speculation regarding Fernando was flattering, in that it demonstrates the significant steps that Red Bull Racing has made in a short time to be considered as a viable team by the double world champion. However, since we announced our driver line-up in the summer, we have been committed to David and Mark. They did an excellent job for the team in 2007 and remain one of the strongest driver line-ups in F1.
Q: The FIA gathered in Monaco earlier this month to discuss a case of information changing hands when an engineer changes team. Your former technical director Mark Smith has recently joined Force India, taking with him knowledge gleaned from his time spent working with Adrian Newey. Do you believe we will see an investigation every time a high-ranking engineer switches team?
CH: With seven Formula One teams based within an approximately 80-mile radius in the United Kingdom it is inevitable that staff move from team to team. While they may take knowledge in their head, they are certainly not permitted to take any intellectual property (IP) or designs to another team and we have relevant processes in place to ensure that this doesnt happen. Mark Smiths departure was agreed back in the summer, prior to any involvement in the RB4, and we rely on the integrity of individuals, such as Mark, not to disclose any confidential IP, in the same way that he didnt when he joined us from Renault.