Fastest but not first - Horner reviews Red Bulls 09 season 05 Nov 2009
When race fans look back on 2009, they will describe it as the year of the underdog. While the traditional frontrunners took a back seat, newcomers Brawn GP won both championships with fellow upstarts Red Bull Racing hard on their heels all the way.
For Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, the end of the season brings mixed feelings. Yes, they achieved more than theyd ever hoped for, but they also just lost out on both titles. For Horner the only response is to look ahead to 2010, so listen up Red Bulls rivals and watch out
Q: Christian, the season has come to an end with a one-two victory for Red Bull. Did you expect to dominate the Abu Dhabi race?
Christian Horner: We wanted to end the season on a high and can it get any better than a one-two victory? I have to thank Red Bull and I have to thank Renault for giving us a great engine this year. This year we have acquired a taste for winning and we will be back stronger next season.
Q: From the beginning, when you had nothing to lose, to ending as the only team other than Brawn with a shot at the title, its been a great season for you. Are you going home satisfied?
CH: Yes. It has been a big step forward from where we left the battlefield in 2008. We have won our first Grand Prix this year and went on to win another five. We had 16 podiums, five pole positions and scored over 150 points. Weve been contenders in both championships until the penultimate race and, since we introduced our proper diffuser in Istanbul, no other team has scored more points than us. Inevitably your goals move and the reality is that we lost too much ground at the beginning of the year to the Brawns, who have done a terrific job this year, especially Jenson (Button) in the first third of the championship. Sure their double diffuser contributed to that. We fell behind due to some DNFs caused by accidents, engine failures and reliability issues, but I genuinely believe that we had the fastest car this year.
Q: From good pace to title aspirations, when did operation championship get underway?
CH: From the first test we could already see that the car was really competitive, even without the diffuser. The performance in China was the first real glimpse of what we could do when we qualified on pole, but I think it was in Istanbul when the first double diffuser was on the car, and then in Silverstone after the big upgrade where we clearly dominated the event, followed by another one-two victory in Germany. At that point we had arrived in the championship. We went into the summer break 15 points behind the Brawns. Unfortunately Mark (Webber) had a succession of five races where he didnt score a single point and that was quite costly in the constructors championship. Then there was obviously the incident in Singapore, where we should have scored good points. Those were the crucial points of the championship, and when Brawn managed a one-two in Monza on a power circuit, that was a big dent. But in reality the damage was done in the first three or four races.
Q: Sebastian Vettel said that he went to Brazil believing that he could turn it around. That was his view from the cockpit. What was yours from the pit wall? Was that realistic?
CH: Sebastian has never given up. That is one of his key qualities. He has fought every lap of the season. In Brazil he was very disappointed after the race because he really believed that he could take the championship to the wire. He has driven brilliantly this year, in only his second full Grand Prix season, and he continues to grow stronger with every mile in the car. He has really emerged as a future world champion.
Q: He said that he threw a few things around his room when he returned to his hotel in Brazil. Can you understand his reaction?
CH: I definitely can, but it was also a fact that the championship was not lost in Brazil. He drove a fantastic race in Brazil, which went largely unnoticed after having been so unlucky in qualifying. Coming from 16th on the grid to end the race on P4 was probably one of his best drives. He can be really proud of what he achieved this year. There are a lot of lessons to be learned, which will only make us stronger as a team next year.
Q: So (Red Bull chief) Dietrich Mateschitz is happy with the result?
CH: Mr Mateschitz set us a target at the beginning of the year - top three. We exceeded that and achieved top two! He has been totally supportive and Red Bulls commitment to Formula One has been fantastic. He deserves the success that the team has delivered this season. And sure, after such a season, it raises the goal for 2010.
Q: Have you already made up your mind about engines? There have been whispers that you will stick with Renault, but also rumours that Mercedes is on your wish list
CH: Sure, the engine is a key element of car performance. We have had great support from Renault this year and without their help and assistance we would have never won the races and achieved the results that we did. They have been a good partner. It is also true that we need to look for the best engine partner for next year, and we will make that decision imminently taking everything into account. The Mercedes engine was the most powerful engine this year, but a deal with them is not possible due to other contracts that they have, even though the rules were changed to allow a manufacturer to supply units to four teams. It is getting very late for us already so we have to make a decision very, very shortly and Renault has fuel-efficient engines which will be very important in 2010.
Q: The FIA has recently elected a new President. What do you expect Jean Todt to do for Formula One racing?
CH: I believe that Jean will be a very strong President. He was a hugely successful team principal and he has achieved the same in world rally and the same in sports cars. So I think for motorsport in general, not only for Formula One, this is very positive. He has proved himself to be a very strong manager and achieved great things in his competitive career. He now crosses the fence into insuring that rules, stability, regulations, safety, cost control and fairness are properly supported by the FIA. I think that the teams can look forward to a healthy relationship with Jean Todt.
Q: Abu Dhabis new Yas Marina Circuit was a real eye opener for everybody and demonstrated how healthy Formula One as a brand is, despite some surprising departures recently. What did you make of it?
CH: Well, Bernie (Ecclestone) has been winding us up for quite some time now, saying wait till we get to Abu Dhabi! We went to Singapore and that was fantastic. The circuits that have been introduced over the last couple of years have been stronger and better and more impressive. And it was just unbelievable what we saw in Abu Dhabi, and Im not saying this because we had a heyday there. What theyve created out of nothing is just staggering and what theyve done for Formula One definitely shows how strong the sport is. And it puts Abu Dhabi on the global map with Formula One. It is a real testament to how perfect synergies can be achieved.