Exclusive Q&A with Red Bull's Christian Horner 16 May 2007
There was an almost audible sigh of relief in the Red Bull garage on Sunday, when David Coulthard crossed the Barcelona finish line in fifth to score the teams first points of the year. Whether the result was a real breakthrough or just a temporary high remains to be seen, but team principal Christian Horner is convinced they could soon be challenging BMW Sauber for the role of third-fastest team
Q: Up until the Spanish Grand Prix, this season had been rather a dull time for Red Bull. Was the Barcelona race the turning point?
Christian Horner: Yes, I am sure of that. If you look at our qualifying performance, Mark Webber has been in the top ten for the first three races and in Barcelona David (Coulthard) took over, it was a clear indication that we are on the right track. We have out-qualified the works Renault team on occasions, and certainly in Bahrain. We should have been in the points several times this year, and it was frustrating that our reliability has prevented us from scoring a few points. We see that the potential of the car is there, and we will move forward on that.
Q: The pre-Grand Prix test in Barcelona saw Coulthard hammering in the best time on the last day. What happened? Was the half second you found all down to new parts?
CH: We introduced a big upgrade at the test. First of all in the transmission, with the seamless gearshift, which puts us equal to the teams around and ahead of us. Also with a new aero package, with a new front wing and some new bodywork, we have moved closer towards BMW Sauber, which is our target.
Q: Bahrain was a low point with both cars retiring due to mechanical failure - Webber with gearbox troubles and Coulthard with driveshaft issues. Is this just teething problems?
CH: The car this year was not an evolution, it was a complete clean sheet of paper, with over 6,500 separate components. Obviously there are going to be some teething issues, and hopefully we have addressed those. Of course it was disappointing that the cars did not finish, but David overtook Renaults, Toyotas and Williams to get into the points, and likewise with Mark. Without his (fuel) flap problem, he easily would have been seventh and very close to Kubica. So yes, the reliability has been a little frustrating, and we have been working hard to rectify this and put a little more performance on the car.
Q: Webber, who has outraced Coulthard on three out of four occasions, seems to be getting along better with the RB3. Surprising, considering that everyone expected Adrian Neweys design would suit former McLaren driver Coulthard better
CH: Both drivers drive the car very similarly, but David has been very unlucky in qualifying - the car failure in Bahrain and in Australia he made a mistake on his second run. And Mark is fantastic at delivering in qualifying, but unlucky in the races. From the driver line-up we are very happy that we have got a strong pairing, combining both speed and experience. And once we have a normal weekend, we hope to get both cars in the points. On first sight you could say that Mark has outraced David, but when you dig a little deeper and you take a look at the race pace you can see that both drivers are very even. Both drivers push each other extremely hard. This is what we hoped for - its very good for the team. The team is only in its third year, and we are racing with the Renaults and Toyotas. We have taken a step forward and we need to take another step forward.
Q: Mark recently revealed that he expects to concentrate on stabilising the cars performance this season and therefore holds little hope of being on the podium until 2008. Is that this years strategy?
CH: We are going to be quite aggressive with the development this year. Next years car will be an evolution. But before we get there, there is a lot of development. It will not be like this year, when we have started with a clean sheet, and not every single component will be from scratch. We will take the positives from this year.
Q: After being bolstered by the Barcelona result, what is your outlook for Monaco?
CH: The target is to score some points and get on the score board. Both drivers have good records in Monte Carlo and we will be pushing very hard. But what I definitely will not do this year is bet on either drivers performance - I dont want to dive into a swimming pool with nothing but a cape on for a second time
Q: The controversy surrounding Red Bull Technologys decision to design both the Red Bull Racing and the Toro Rosso cars remains unresolved. What is the current state of affairs - and how much is Red Bull Racing involved in this whole procedure?
CH: Obviously we did a lot of research into the regulations. We felt that this route complied with both the sporting and technical regulations and the Concorde Agreement. And that was why we have introduced this concept early - a decision which is not unique to ourselves.
Q: Was it a sound idea to introduce Red Bull Technology this year when an introduction in 2008 would have gone unchallenged?
CH: There is obviously an issue with Toro Rosso and Spyker, and its all in the hands of the lawyers, but Red Bull Racing is not involved at all in any dispute.