Exclusive Q&A - Red Bulls Christian Horner 01 May 2008
Seeing his car finish as best of the rest behind Ferrari, McLaren and BMW Sauber in Spain must have taken a load off Red Bull team principal Christian Horners mind - especially as it just happened to take place in front of team owner Dietrich Mateschitz on a rare visit to a race.
Of course Mark Webbers fifth place at Barcelona doesnt completely rebuff the RB4s disappointing start to the season, but it does give hope that the team are finally on their way to leading the midfield pack
Q: Christian, have Marks eight points this season made for happy faces at Red Bull? The battle for points in the midfield group is extremely fierce at the moment. How do the team management feel?
Christian Horner: First of all, congratulations to Mark, youve done a fantastic job and scoring four points is a dream result. And happy faces? At Barcelona - yes. And well, if you look at the first three races they were quite untypical. For example, take Australia. Only six cars finished - unfortunately we were not one of those - but Williams with two cars took a large amount of points out of this event. At the next two races Mark was consistently in the points - and now here in Barcelona we came close to our expectations. The fact is we outraced Renault and Williams fair and square at the last three events. True Ferrari, McLaren and BMW are a bit up the road, but thereafter its incredibly tight and we are right in the middle of that fight.
Q: The RB4 seems to have had a difficult beginning. What are its shortcomings?
CH: Compared to where we have been last year we have made a big step forward - and also a big step forward compared to the first three races. We clearly see obvious potential in the RB4 and Marks four points (in Spain) confirm that. The basis of that good result was a very successful pre-race test that we can hopefully build on in the races to come. What we have to focus on now is to unleash a bit more performance at low and medium speed.
Q: Is reliability a solved issue?
CH: Reliability was our Achilles heel last year and compared to that we are doing 100 percent better!
Q: Webber said recently that the team is lacking something in terms of pace of development. Would you agree?
CH: We came to Barcelona with almost a new car so I dont think that lack of development speed is an issue. Obviously, we are not at the level of the big manufacturer teams, but we try to be cleverer. With the strength of the people we have, we need to engineer our way forward, rather than buy our way forward.
Q: You've paid your dues. You're now part of the Formula One establishment and no longer the new kid on the block. And you've managed to navigate around the rocky shores that are Formula One politics. How do you do that?
CH: Im just focused on strengthening the team - politics I leave to others. And if I have to get involved, I try to play with a straight face. But as I said, my attention is on the team. We are still a young team that feels a bit like a rowing boat. At the moment not all strokes are completely in time but every month its getting better and the cooperation between Adrian (Newey) and Geoff (Willis) is very, very good.
Q: What do you think about the future of the sport? This season Formula One racing has new venues, a night event and is shifting further into evolving markets
CH: I think it is fantastic that Bernie (Ecclestone) is pushing the boundaries in these areas. For Red Bull, going to Singapore and having a night race there is a fantastic event. We have been there already twice with a running show car. The reception from that market is massive. It is going to be a huge spectacle.
Q: You're a team owner in another motorsport discipline. Have you any ambitions to own a Formula One team?
CH: There is a big difference between a GP2 team with 20 people and an F1 team with around 600 people. But a GP2 team, with its possibility to test young drivers, is a good synergy to an F1 team. Take for example Sebastien Buemi - he is Red Bulls test driver and racing in GP2 to get race experience. To be in F1 you either need to be a car manufacturer or own a company like Red Bull - I am neither of those. So I concentrate 100 percent on the job that I have at Red Bull and have an excellent management at my GP2 team.
Q: What's your take on the sale of the Toro Rosso team? In what way will, or could, it affect development at Red Bull Racing?
CH: First it would be inappropriate for me to comment on Toro Rosso - its down to Gerhard (Berger) and Dietrich. And in reality the two teams operate independently, with a central supplier, so whatever happens with Toro Rosso does not affect Red Bull Racing. And as they have to be a constructor by 2010, it will be different to the situation that we have today anyway.