Exclusive Q&A with Red Bulls Christian Horner 28 Jul 2008
Making an impression on paddock life is one thing - delivering results on the track is quite another. Since their arrival in 2005 Red Bull have thrown some unforgettable parties and now they seem to have raised the bar in terms of their racing too.
Not only have they clinched a front-row grid slot and a podium finish, but they have also scored more points than they managed in the whole of 2007. No wonder then that team principal, Christian Horner, is pretty pleased with progress. Here Horner reflects on the season to date and discusses the squads promising driver line-up for 2009
Q: Christian, when did the team decide to sign Sebastian Vettel?
Christian Horner: Well, after David (Coulthard) informed us in Canada that he intended to retire at the end of the season, it naturally triggered a discussion with Sebastian, who is on a long-term contract with Red Bull. It was a very straightforward decision, especially when we took into consideration the potential he has shown in the last eight months. There were the means to make it happen very quickly, there was a very short discussion with Sebastian and then, internally, everything was put in place to make his switch happen.
Q: Over the past few months Fernando Alonso was seen visiting the Red Bull Energy Station. Did you attempt to sign a big name?
CH: We had a few discussions with big names but we are very comfortable with the pairing of Mark (Webber) and Sebastian (Vettel). It is a good blend of youth and experience and Sebastians potential looks quite exciting. And I hope that we can provide him with the right environment to help his potential flourish.
Q: So will Webber lead the team?
CH: We run the cars with total equality, but naturally due to his experience and standing within the team Mark will undoubtedly be pushing very hard in that role. But I am also sure that Sebastian can provide a strong challenge.
Q: You reportedly said that it would have been too early for the team to sign Fernando Alonso
CH: First and foremost, I have the utmost respect for Fernando - he is a fantastic driver. But the terms both parties were looking for, relating to the longevity of the relationship, were totally disproportionate, so it was never an option to bring him into Red Bull Racing. And following the investment we have put into our junior programme we finally have a driver who looks to have exceptional talent. Therefore it is entirely logical to put Sebastian into a cockpit at RBR.
Q: When you say that you considered some big names, who did you consider?
CH: Ill leave that completely to your own imagination!
Q: Both cars made it into Q3 at the German Grand Prix. Is that the standard of performance you are hoping to achieve from now on?
CH: Its true its getting tighter and tighter. Even Ferrari are having odd days. Mark qualified on the front row at Silverstone and that shows that high-speed tracks suit our car very well. And even at tracks like Hockenheim, that doesnt suit our car so well, we have been able put our two drivers into the top ten. And it is great to be fairly disappointed with eight and tenth. If you think back to one year ago - that would have been a big result for the team.
Q: Adrian Neweys design touch finally seems to have taken hold. Did you expect this to happen sooner?
CH: Adrians contribution within the team is enormous. But it takes time for a group of people to work well together and understand each other. We also have to have the tools to support those people, like the wind tunnel. We are in a business where you are always designing six or eight months ahead. And Adrians influence is becoming stronger and stronger. We had a satisfying first half of the season and we are working to improve even further.
Q: Before the Silverstone race, Red Bull was fourth in the constructors standings. Will you be able to regain that position soon? Are there any developments set to be introduced on the car to help make that happen?
CH: Well, lately we have given away a lot of points! We will continue to push the development of this car both aerodynamically and mechanically, and hopefully we can regain P4. But there are no major revamps planned, just an evolution of the current components on the car, which will make up for what we have identified as our problem areas - slow corners and long straights.
Q: Looking ahead to 2009, the introduction of KERS sounds logical for the manufacturer teams, but for Red Bull, is it a valid development?
CH: Obviously it has no relevance to Red Bulls business. KERS is a fascinating cutting-edge technology for the future, but what is important is that we deal with the safety aspects, as we have had a couple of incidents. All Formula One technology is meant to push the boundaries. For us, KERS is part of the regulations so it is something that we will do. It is extremely costly and as we are an independent team we dont have the resources to develop like a manufacturer has. It could become a big performance differentiator next year and it would be a shame, now that we have come so close, to see it all go due to the KERS system.
Q: Both your drivers say that while Red Bulls budget might be smaller than those of the manufacturer teams, you use your resources effectively...
CH: We have a sensible budget although its not in the range of Toyota or Honda. We have invested cleverly in people and we support those people within the structure of the company. We have to think about the way we apply our resources because we cannot afford to waste money. Every component that goes on the car has to build performance on the car. People are your biggest asset in Formula One and our asset is starting to pay dividends for us and the product is a faster car. In that regard, communication is key - from management to line managers to the factory floor.