Exclusive Q&A - Red Bulls Christian Horner 11 Dec 2008
Red Bulls recent announcement that they are to regain 100 percent ownership of Toro Rosso has left many asking whether one company can really finance two teams without one or the other of them suffering. Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner insists its not even an issue. He is more concerned with seeing the injured Mark Webber return to action and in implementing the planned cost-cutting measures for 2009
Q: Christian, Red Bull is to regain full ownership of sister team Scuderia Toro Rosso (STR). What does this mean for Red Bull Racing (RBR)?
Christian Horner: It will have no effect in the way that we operate with Toro Rosso. The co-operation between Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso has always been very good, culminating with an excellent race win for Toro Rosso and Sebastian Vettel in Monza this year. That collaboration will remain unchanged in 2009.
Q: Will the 100 percent ownership of STR have any impact on RBRs financial situation? After all, if a car manufacturer as big as Honda is unwilling to finance one team, why is an energy drink producer happy to finance two, especially in these difficult economic times?
CH: The funding of Toro Rosso has always been fully provided by Red Bull, so therefore the 100 percent takeover has no foreseen impact on Red Bull Racing. Thankfully a can of Red Bull doesnt cost the same as a car, so people are still buying and enjoying the product during these times!
Q: The Honda withdrawal came as a big surprise - it seems the cost-cutting measures came too late. Is it now time the engineers were disempowered and forced to abandon their costly search for that elusive nanosecond?
CH: Since the formation of the teams association (FOTA) all Formula One teams have been actively looking at measures to reduce costs significantly for 2009 and beyond. This work is taking place in conjunction with the FIA and good progress to date has been made.
Q: Everybody is looking for ways to cut costs. Engines aside, where do you see the biggest potential for savings? And what will RBR do as a team in 2009 to lower costs?
CH: Already measures for reducing testing and extending engine life have significantly reduced costs for 2009. Further measures are currently being discussed, which should also create significant cost saving opportunities.
Q: You will have to do most of your winter test program without Mark. How much of a problem will that be to your 2009 preparations?
CH: Marks accident was very unfortunate, but the only positive was the timing as at any other time of year breaking your leg would have had a massive impact on the racing season. Mark is making a good recovery and we expect to see him back in action during February. In the meantime Sebastian Vettel will conduct the lions share of testing.
Q: How is Marks condition? What exactly was his injury and how certain are you of when hell be back in the car?
CH: Mark is recovering well. Both bones in his lower right leg were broken and so a rod and three screws were fitted, but other than that there were no additional injuries. Our first (2009) test will be during the second week of February, so theoretically Mark wont miss out on any team testing in 2009.
Q: Mark has indicated that Sebastian will put RBR under pressure, as he has demonstrated that winning in a car designed by Red Bull Technology is possible. A most welcome pressure?
CH: Sebastian Vettel won in a car that was designed and developed in Milton Keynes and operated very successfully by Toro Rosso. The team has been delighted with the feedback and direction that Sebastian Vettel has given during winter testing to date and we feel confident that we have a very strong driver line-up for 2009.
Q: Finally, there have been discussions about various possibilities for new qualifying formats, including one that eliminates drivers by the lap rather than by the session. Where do you see the advantages in that?
CH: There are some interesting proposals being discussed that could really contribute to the excitement of qualifying, but if any changes do take place this should be decided in the very near future.