Patience & passion: Exclusive Q&A with Red Bulls Helmut Marko 14 Nov 2010
The way Sundays Abu Dhabi Grand Prix played out was almost unbelievable, particularly for Red Bull. Championship underdog Sebastian Vettel won not just the race, but also the title, as his two main rivals made strategic slip-ups. For the teams special advisor Dr Helmut Marko, it was a dream come true as he saw all his efforts come to fruition in Formula One racings youngest-ever champion
Q: Helmut, how is the feeling having won both titles?
Helmut Marko: Satisfied, happy, but still a bit unaware of what really happened - and what it means. Weve had our share of criticism this season because with obviously the best car we didnt outperform all the others early on. But in the end weve proved what were made of!
Q: There was so much speculation about the strategy Red Bull would follow in this crucial race. In reality how long did you sit on Saturday evening discussing all the eventualities?
HM: Weve always said that we are no supporter of team orders and that was 100 percent valid until Brazil. Sure, in this last and ultimately crucial race we demanded so much responsibility for the entire team that if one of the two didnt have at least a mathematical chance to win the title he must not stand in the way of the other. But in the end all this was pure speculation as we have seen in the race that at the end of the day reality took over from any strategic model. All we knew when going into this race is that had we had a team order in Brazil we would have been going into this race with only one driver with a chance instead of two - and probably the wrong driver. It is always better to have two strings to ones bow instead of one.
Q: It was a fantastic year for Red Bull Racing - winning both titles - but there have also been quite a number of moments of discontent. Can you name some?
HM: Well, one of the worst moments was when Sebastians engine blew in Korea. It was a sure-fire victory and it was going up in smoke. Generally I would say that Sebastian lost at least 66 points due to technical reasons - and mostly Fernando Alonso was the beneficiary - so essentially what Sebastian lost Alonso gained. Sure, Istanbul was not a highlight of our season. It might have been entertaining for the rest, but we definitely had to chew on this situation. But weve learned from it - both our drivers learned from it!
Q: You just mentioned the loss of 66 points on Sebastians side due to purely technical reasons. How did such a young guy handle so much misfortune - not fall into a black hole, but instead find the reserves to bounce back and win the title?
HM: Funny, but when you take Korea it was Sebastian who comforted the team - for him it was no issue at all. But I would say that this is the process of maturing and Sebastian was maturing a lot this season. On the other hand we always knew that with our car we are the strongest force, and in such a situation it is in no way helpful to do finger-pointing. Instead you look forward - and our answer to the Korea slump was an incredible one-two victory in Brazil that pushed the doors wide open again.
Q: Red Bull had the best car throughout the season, yet still you had to wait until the last two races to secure both titles. What did you learn from this season for next season?
HM: We learnt that on the technical side we have to get a bit more reliability. And on the drivers side, that there must not be an eloper. On Marks side there was the lapse in Valencia and Korea, and Sebastian made a tactical mistake in Budapest, plus there have been some starts that didnt go so well. Small issues, but issues that made us go all the way to the last races. Sure, another reason for it taking so long was that weve not sided with one driver. To give both our drivers equal chances is Red Bulls philosophy - and it requires a certain state of mind and you dont mess that up at a certain point in the season when it seems convenient. We have had so much feedback from fans who love us for this attitude.
Q: Effectively todays race was a four-way race for the title, where the 20 other drivers were extras - at least in the battle for the championship. How do you as a team deal with those 20 others? Are there communications between teams to make sure that those not involved in the championship battle keep checking their mirrors?
HM: Well, you cannot look for sympathy at the very last race. There are certain friendships among drivers - there are some who are closer and there are some who prefer not to see each other - and if you want to pass that surely can make a difference. That is something that you also have to take into account.
Q: Winning both titles in only the teams sixth season is an incredible result. What has made you so successful in such a short period?
HM: We wanted to have that success earlier. We are here to win - and we made that very clear when we bought the team. We wanted to go to the top and some laughed or declared us insane when we came into Formula One, but our owner is a visionary who gave us sufficient resources - and he had the patience to hold on. Because there is no such thing as a fairy tale where you hire an outstanding technical talent and wins start to roll in. You have to build a whole organisation that is interacting perfectly. I would say that we already had a car good enough for race wins in 2008 - which Sebastian proved with Toro Rosso - but then in 2009 the double diffuser cursed all our hopes. This year it finally happened and hopefully will happen again in the future as we have long-term contracts with all our top people.
Q: To come into Formula One as Dietrich Mateschitz did is a huge commitment. You have been his advisor all along - and got him involved with the sport. Have there ever been moments when you thought what have I got this man involved with?
HM: No, never. Sure he can be hard as a rock and when it didnt work out as planned there has been legitimate criticism. But he knew that it would need a bit of breathing space and I want to thank him for all the patience and passion that hes shown.
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