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Exclusive Q&A: Red Bull’s Christian Horner 02 Feb 2011

(L to R): Christian Horner (GBR) Red Bull Racing Team Principal; Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing; Adrian Newey (GBR) Red Bull Racing Chief Technical Officer and Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing with the new Red Bull Racing RB7.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Valencia, Spain, Tuesday, 1 February 2011 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB7.
Formula One Testing, Day 2, Valencia, Spain, Wednesday, 2 February 2011 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB7.
Formula One Testing, Day 2, Valencia, Spain, Wednesday, 2 February 2011 Christian Horner (GBR) Red Bull Racing Team Principal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 19, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Race, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Sunday, 14 November 2010 (L to R): Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing with team mate Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Valencia, Spain, Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Tuesday was a good day for Red Bull Racing. The covers came off the new RB7 and it immediately ran close to 100 laps without issue. True, reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel did the roll-out, but team principal Christian Horner insists success is not a matter of one individual, but rather the whole team. With the task of defending both titles ahead of them, Horner is hoping for a year of harmony - something everyone in the team will welcome, given the rough ride that was at times 2010…

Q: Christian, first day in the life of the RB7. How was it?
Christian Horner:
So far so good. The car was running 93 laps in the first day without any issues and that is really promising. I am delighted with the amount of effort from the whole team that the RB7 was ready for the first test in the shortest production time that we’ve ever built a car in, so I have to say it was a very impressive effort from every single team member. But to read anything into testing times is complete waste of time. We left the last test in Barcelona last year thinking that McLaren was the car to beat and then we qualified on pole in Bahrain by half a second. We have to wait until the first race: there we take out the fuel in Q1 and see where you’re at. This year it will not be different.

Q: The taste of success must have been very sweet, but now the team is the hunted one. Will there be a different strategy this season?
CH:
Well, you can always learn and the key thing is that we’ve achieved two championships - we have them in the history books now - so the challenge is to defend both these titles. The motivation in the team is sky-high and you can see this from the amount of effort that has been taken and the sacrifices that have been made: this car was made over the Christmas period! We want to defend our titles, but we also do not underestimate the challenge of the likes of Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes - and anybody else who has built a competitive car. Sure, it is a different situation going into the season as the reigning world champion with the number one on our car, with the world champion in our car, but we didn’t get there by mistake and everybody should understand that we take ‘operation title defence’ very seriously.

Q: Red Bull has had a significant performance boost over recent years, bringing you all the way to the top. Now you have to make sure that it’s not just a flash in the pan…
CH:
We’ve been around only six years and so what we’ve achieved in those six years is pretty incredible. We’ve won more races than any other team for the last three years. We had a successful 2009 season and an ever more successful 2010, so these titles are not a lucky punch. We’ve worked very hard to get there and we will work even harder to stay there.

Q: When do you think the F1 heavyweights, the likes of McLaren and Ferrari, realised that Red Bull could turn into their worst nightmare in 2010?
CH:
To be honest we tend to focus more on ourselves than listen to the comments of others. It is inevitable that if you become competitive more people start to have opinions, but that is not limited to Ferrari and McLaren. They are good opponents, they are great teams and I think it is healthy for Formula One to have a new team coming in and winning, as they have different values and a different heritage. It is good to have iconic names like Ferrari, McLaren or Mercedes - and then you’ve got Red Bull, which is an energy drink, running with a customer engine and it has beaten some iconic names.

Q: Has there been a change in their view of Red Bull Racing? There is a saying in German, ‘envy you have to work for; pity you get for free’…
CH:
A little bit. It is inevitable when the car is quick and your drivers are running at the front - then you come a bit more under focus and scrutiny. It is one of those things that we ignore and rather focus on ourselves - and do the best job we can!

Q: There were frictions last season stemming from the fact that both your drivers were title contenders. What have you learned from last year’s little dramas?
CH:
The good thing is that you learn. If you are not prepared to learn each and every day in this business then you’re making a grave mistake. We can learn from the races that we’ve won - and learn from those we didn’t win. If you want to be successful in Formula One you have to look inwardly.

Q: Recently Helmut Marko added a bit of fuel to the flames by saying that had Sebastian not had so many technical failures last year, there wouldn’t have been a standoff between him and Mark at all. Will we see a bit of ankle biting again this year?
CH:
Statistically Helmut is right. Sebastian had the lion’s share of bad luck when it came to reliability. Mark had good reliability. But of course you have to go deeper than that. Both drivers had massively impressive campaigns last year. Mark led the championship for a large part of the season; the only time Sebastian led was after the final race in Abu Dhabi - when it really counted. Sebastian is a very deserving champion, he was very impressive last year - unlucky on occasion, but please don’t take anything away from Mark. Mark had a fantastic season - he was totally dominant in races like Barcelona or Monaco, he won four Grands Prix, so both drivers did an exceptional job, but yes, Sebastian had a bit more bad luck. But he had good fortune when Fernando (Alonso) pitted in Abu Dhabi, so these things tend to equal themselves out.

Q: Sebastian’s contract runs until 2012 - at least that seems to be the general opinion…
CH:
You know what his contract is? No? There you go. All contracts between the drivers and the team are confidential and remain so between the driver and the team. When Mark’s contract was announced, it was announced very clearly as a one-year renewal at both parties’ request, because I think that an important factor for Mark is to know that he’s still got a hunger and desire and competitiveness - at 34 years of age - so therefore we decided to take it one year at a time. He drove phenomenally well last year and all depends on his motivation and desire - and obviously performance - to see whether the relationship in the car goes beyond 2011. But it is very early days to be thinking about it at the moment. At the moment we are not imagining any driver other than Mark Webber in one of our cars.

Q: So it could be possible he’s staying beyond 2011? If the hunger is still there and he is performing…
CH:
Yes, that’s a fair assessment.

Q: For 2011 you have the youngest-ever F1 champion trying for a repeat performance, and one of the oldest guys on the grid reaching out for his first title. Surely it’s only fair that Mark goes for the championship in 2011…
CH:
What happened last year is what happened on the track - which is the way it should be. We will give both drivers the best support the team possibly can - as we did last year - and we will continue to give them the best opportunity. But everything will be down to what they do on the circuit. We believe in the right and fair way.

Q: Your own career in Formula One has basically only ever run north. How would you describe it? Luck? Right time, right place? What?
CH:
I think it is a matter of assembling a great team of people - having a great chairman who has given me the freedom to recruit and run the team with my principles that have always served me well, even from my time before Formula One. Formula One is all about team. It is not about one single individual. The only reason we’ve been so successful is because of the assembled people working in harmony together. That team remains intact as a unit moving forward and hopefully we can repeat the kind of success that we’ve achieved in 2010.

Q: So harmony is the keyword for this season…
CH:
I think that 2011 is a year that will be massively competitive. Twenty races will be very tough and I think that the performance between the teams will fluctuate. I hope we will be competitive enough - and consistent enough - to put up a really strong defence of both the titles we worked so hard to achieve in 2010. You don’t let something like this go without a good fight.

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