Exclusive Q&A with Red Bulls Christian Horner 13 Jul 2010
Its easy to forget that just a few years ago the Red Bull team was but a twinkle in an Austrian billionaires eyes. In 2009 they established themselves as frontrunners, whilst this season they are unquestionably the team to beat - having scored nine pole positions and five victories. Although theres been a fair few hiccups along the way, for team principal Christian Horner, challenging the establishment is a source of immense pride. He talks 2010, upgrades, Pirelli and drivers...
Q: This year Red Bull have stepped up to rival the establishment - has the pressure got to you and the team? Do you think some of the more established teams underestimated you?
CH: Last year we finished second in the drivers and constructors championship and won six races, and some people thought the bigger guys were sleeping that year with teams like McLaren and Ferrari being that much further back. I think we demonstrated that we are a front-running team. We have come an awfully long way in a very short period of time, against some huge and iconic opponents. Im very pleased with the progress weve managed to make over the last couple of years to cement Red Bulls position as a genuine frontrunner.
Q: Youve had a fair share of reliability issues this season, but the innovative RB6 has consistently been the car to beat. Having pushed development to its extremes, did you expect a few growing pains?
CH: Inevitably when you push the boundaries there are a few issues, and unfortunately weve had a couple of issues. We had a spark-plug failure at the first Grand Prix that unfortunately prevented Sebastian from winning that race. We had a wheel-nut issue that also both Mercedes and McLaren have had failures at different Grands Prix. We had a brake issue in Barcelona but Sebastian still managed to finish in third. So in terms of absolute showstoppers weve only had one mechanical DNF. Weve had no more, or less, than our competitors.
Q: Suddenly in Valencia recently everyone was talking about teams introducing low exhausts and blown rear diffusers. Youve had these solutions since the start of the season. Why has it taken the others so long to catch on? Does it make you proud that you are influencing other teams developments?
CH: Its always flattering when teams copy designs like the lower exhaust exits. As with all these things its very difficult to cherry pick items for cars. It has to be incorporated within your own package to exploit genuine benefit. Its not just the exhaust that makes the car go quickly. So its been interesting to see how its been copied, but its happened before with engine covers or diffusers. Its the way Formula One works.
Q: You now have the F-duct on the car and its working well. Are there any more major developments coming?
CH: We try to get something onto the car at every Grand Prix which weve managed to do so far this year. We are managing to add performance to the car at every race and the guys are doing an incredible job in maintaining a very rapid development process against bigger teams. Lets not forget that both McLaren and Ferrari have considerably more resource than we do, so it means we have to think smarter and more innovatively to make sure we get the most performance possible from the car.
Q: When will the team switch their development focus solely to 2011? How far along is next years car?
CH: The 2011 car will inevitably be an evolution of this years car so Im sure well be pushing development late into the year as we did last year.
Q: Youll keep the same drivers next year. How important do you think a stable line-up is to the success of a team?
CH: I think its very important. I think both drivers are well known to the team and they are a very competitive line-up. They push each other very hard and extract the best out of each other, so from a team point of view its a very positive partnership and were delighted theyll be going into a third season together.
Q: If Vettel and Webber were suddenly unavailable, which drivers would you be trying to sign?
CH: Gosh, thats an interesting question. Id be hoping they both wouldnt suddenly become unavailable. I cant think of any other guys we would want to have than the two we do have, so Im not going to go near that question.
Q: The new teams have come in for some flack about their pace - or lack of it - and some critics would argue that Webbers crash with Kovalainen in Valencia proved their point. Whats your take on this, and do you think the 107 percent rule next year will change things?
CH: You must never underestimate the challenge of Formula One and the new teams are making progress, particularly Lotus, and it was great shame what happened. Marks never found himself actually racing one of those cars previously - hes just seen them moving out of the way to be lapped. So I think it would be wrong to place blame on a team thats in its first year. What happened happened. I think Heikkis (Kovalainens) braking point took Mark completely by surprise and Heikki wasnt totally sure whether he was moving to the left or the right. But I think its wrong to blame the drivers or teams. I doubt well see Mark Webber following a Lotus that closely again this year.
Q: Regarding next year, are you pleased with the choice of Pirelli as the new sole tyre supplier. Do you have any concerns about the amount of testing and development you will be able to do ahead of the 2011 season?
CH: I think its great a brand like Pirelli has come back into Formula One. They obviously have a great motorsport heritage and its fantastic to retain a common supplier for all the teams. They have enough racing experience and have a big enough competition department to deal with the challenges of Formula One. The most important thing will be that it is the same for everyone, so were delighted Pirelli have decided to come into Formula One. Im sure theyll do a very good job.
Q: There has been mixed reaction to the moveable rear wings the FIA plan for next year. Combined with KERS, dont you think we are introducing too many artificial elements to the driver experience? Surely Formula One is meant to be motor racing at its purest
CH: We need to be a bit careful we dont create a WWF scenario. Its important that all these changes are carefully considered. I think the racing this year has been excellent. Since Bahrain weve had some really exciting Grands Prix. Its important we dont mess around too much with the DNA of what is Formula One.
Q: Do you think theyll be more effective than the arguably negligible success of the adjustable front wings?
CH: Potentially its a very powerful tool. Its also quite dangerous if it was to fail in any way, so it is important that all things are taken into consideration.
Q: Theres been talk of Renault supplying more teams next season. Good or bad for Red Bull?
CH: Renault are a great partner of ours. Obviously it doesnt affect the potential relationship well have with them in 2011. Theyve demonstrated that they are a very capable supplier. Im sure if they dont overstretch themselves, I cant see an issue.
Q: Would Red Bull be interested in fielding a third car?
CH: Well Red Bull of course field four cars, as they have two teams. There are 12 teams currently in Formula One, with one open slot, so I dont think the need will be there to run a third car.
Q: And finally, are the titles still yours for the taking, or are you worried about McLaren?
CH: I think theres a long way to go in the championship. Its going to be a fascinating second half to the season. And I dont think anyone could with any confidence say we are going to be standing on top of the podium of the championship in Abu Dhabi.