Exclusive Q&A with Red Bulls Christian Horner 10 Feb 2009
Most agree that the newly revealed RB5 is one of the best-looking 2009 cars. But like all beauties, the new Red Bull has already proved itself to be a little temperamental, after gearbox concerns brought its shakedown to a premature end on Monday at Jerez. Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, however, isnt worried. With enough time left before the Melbourne grid to eliminate any minor irritations, a strong driver line-up and a design penned by Adrian Newey, Horner is confident the car could well deliver podiums
Q: Christian, the covers just came off the RB5. What is your gut feeling? Will it have the long-awaited Newey touch?
Christian Horner: Well, we strategically decided to wait until February to launch the car to take full advantage of the wind tunnel and development time with the radical new regulations. Certainly, the car that Adrian and his design team has come up with is a very radical looking car that is fairly different to what we have seen so far, so as with all these things the ultimate test is on the track but certainly from an aesthetic point of view the car looks very pretty. With the performance we have to wait and see. With the new regulations being so open nobody really knows where they are at the moment and I think that it will not be before Melbourne that we see where the teams stand in the pecking order. Monday was all about system checks and aerodynamic mapping but Sebastian (Vettel) seems to feel comfortable in the car - and that is a good sign.
Q: Red Bull is one of the last teams to unveil their car. Is there enough test time before Melbourne for you to get prepared? Will the latecomers feel the effects of the in-season test ban more than those who launched early?
CH: Basically we decided not to test in January as the weather in Europe is difficult to predict - and we have seen that the teams who tested at the Algarve track had very few dry laps for running their new cars, so we didnt miss anything. We rather took the time with our simulation tools and in the design process and tried to optimize the car as much as possible. Only time will tell if that was the right decision, but with the product we ended up with, and with the resources that we have available, the whole team did a fantastic job to produce the car in a very small amount of time.
Q: What are your objectives for this season? P7 in the constructors championship must not really satisfy you
CH: The start of 2008 was quite strong and we arrived at Silverstone fourth in the constructors championship. But the second half of the season was ultimately very disappointing. But we have a new driver line-up this year, and we are all looking forward to working with Sebastian Vettel. And with Mark (Webber) making a good recovery from his accident we have a strong driver side. Plus with the Renault/FIA agreement to bring more parity with the engine suppliers, we seem to be in good shape.
Q: There has been a partial engine defreeze for 2009. Renault - and your team - suffered from a lack of pace. Will the modified engine serve you better this year?
CH: Well, hopefully it will assist the team and we get the same engine as Renault.
Q: Flavio Briatore said that Renault will start the season in Melbourne with KERS. What will Red Bull Racing do? Will you be running the Renault KERS, if you choose to run it?
CH: We have an excellent relationship with Renault, and we are working very closely with them on the side of KERS. Flavio has been extremely good in opening his technology to Red Bull Racing. We will only run KERS when it proves to be a performance advantage, so we will test it extensively during pre-season running and make a decision shortly before Melbourne, if we will run it or not. Time will tell. But as I said we are working very closely with Renault and I am pretty sure that will speed up the development phase.
Q: Cost cutting is the phrase of the moment. Aside from the FIA/FOTA-advocated cost reductions, what will you do as a team? The Red Bulletin is already history as well as the Formula Unas - what else is on the agenda?
CH: We saw some dramatic savings largely due to the FOTA initiatives, endorsed by the FIA with the engine restrictions going to three races. So we have already seen the costs for engines effectively halved. The testing ban is also a considerable cost saving, while some aerodynamic restrictions have been introduced, which is a start. For a team such as Red Bull, which was always a pretty lean team anyway compared to the big manufacturer teams, extra saving is almost impossible. But yes, we are still trying to save a considerable amount in our 2009 budget. The viewer and spectator will not see one bit of difference and for sure our hospitality will stay the same. The Energy Station is an established part of the paddock so we dont expect any changes.
Q: Should the Honda team survive, five private and five manufacturer teams will make the grid. Are private teams on the rise? Are they the future of Formula One racing?
CH: Regarding manufacturers, if you look at the history of Formula One they have come and gone, and the independents have been the stalwarts of Formula One racing. Whats ideal is a balance of both. The manufacturers have made a commitment to supply engines at affordable prices going forward, which is a fantastic commitment, and I do hope for Honda that they survive. It would be a shame for Formula One to go below 20 cars, and hopefully at some point in the future the two vacant spaces can be filled.
Q: Max Mosley believes that this could already be reality by 2010. Do you share that optimism?
CH: Well, Max is very motivated on the subject at the moment. He has set some aggressive targets and certainly, with what has happened so far, it has had a significant impact on operational budgets. So whether 12 teams in 2010 are achievable or not is to be decided, but certainly its a good target and a good initiative.
Q: All these cost-cuts seem to focus on helping car manufacturers stay in F1. Would you say that the needs of private teams are addressed adequately? Is there anything else that you would want to see implemented?
CH: I think the cost savings, to a greater or lesser extent, apply to everybody. I think we need to go further, we need to go further in some of the aerodynamic tooling, with the wind tunnel and CFD, because you have to sort the problem out upstream. Hopefully in 2010 FOTA and the FIA will focus on these areas. We have to come to a point of affordable equality that will enable an independent team like Red Bull or Williams or whatever hopefully Honda becomes to compete with the manufacturers.
Q: You have two great drivers in Vettel and Webber, how will you handle the level of competition between the pair of them?
CH: I think it is a great line-up that we have with Sebastian and Mark. They are both very competitive and very hungry guys. Sebastian is at the start of his career and has an exciting future ahead of him and Mark is the experienced one now, who has always managed to get on top of his team mates. So we are going to see a very interesting year, and the net result will be that the team benefits. They will push each other hard and bring the best out of each other, and it will be interesting to see how it develops. We can promise both equal treatment, that is for sure.