Exclusive Q&A with Red Bulls Christian Horner 23 Jul 2011
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has many reasons to feel cheerful. And on Saturday in Germany hes smiling brightly because Mark Webber has managed to withstand the quick-running McLaren of Lewis Hamilton to claim the teams 10th pole position of the season. Horner reviews Saturdays action at the Nurburgring, discusses Red Bulls 2012 driver line-up and reflects on the challenges of successfully defending a world championship
Q: Christian, we have seen a fantastic qualifying session today and we have a very interesting grid for Sundays race. If everyone had the same cars, what do you think the grid would look like?
Christian Horner: You mean just like in GP2? Well, I would say that the best drivers in any category would always rise to the top. Or as Bernie (Ecclestone) said in a recent interview - you cant hide talent. So I would say you would still have the usual suspects at the front - Vettel, Alonso, Webber, Hamilton and so on. The grid would probably vary from track to track as it is would probably boil down to whether a driver liked a track or not. But the same guys would always occupy the front rows.
Q: In some quarters there seems to be a perception that Vettel is lucky and has simply found himself sitting in the best car
CH: I am not really aware of that. In motorsport there is always the debate over what is more important - car or driver? What respective percentages make up that equation? The fact is you need to have the best drivers in the best cars, and somehow they always come together naturally. Sebastian has earned all his pole positions, race wins, and his championship.
Q: At Silverstone, would Ferrari's Fernando Alonso have won without Vettels botched pit stop?
CH: That is something that we will never know. We certainly would have had track position. For sure Fernando was very fast but he would have had to pass Sebastian - and Sebastian would have done anything to fend him off.
Q: Would Vettel or Webber have won in Silverstone if the off-throttle exhaust blowing regulations hadnt been temporarily changed?
CH: For sure it was a handicap for us but we accepted this on the basis of achieving clarity for the rest of the season - which we now have.
Q: But Ferrari benefitted the most from the Silverstone rule change
CH: We ultimately dont know. We know what effect those changes had on us but we dont know what effect they had on others.
Q: How sensible was it to change the rules for just one race before reverting back to the Valencia situation?
CH: It was indeed a frustrating process, but ultimately I felt sympathy for (FIA race director) Charlie Whiting because it was impossible for him to police - and police fairly. So the most logical thing was to go back to the situation at Valencia. Different engine manufacturers operate their engines in different ways so you cant have an equivalency. It doesnt exist in the regulations and to try and introduce them in the midseason would have been impossible.
Q: Red Bull was possibly the biggest loser of the Silverstone regulation changes. If you lose the championship because of the regulation wobble what are you going to do?
CH: In that case it was good that we finished second and third! In the end it is better to have clarity for the remaining ten races than being in the situation we were in going into the Silverstone weekend.
Q: Webber ignoring orders from the pit wall caused a bit of a stir. Is his pole position today an answer to all that fuss?
CH: Well, Mark and I had a good conversation after the race, and hes got the pole position today because he did an excellent job in qualifying. He deserves that pole position because he simply was the fastest man on the track today. My job in the team is to get the best team result - which sometimes is in slight conflict with the drivers.
Q: When you saw Webber chasing down Vettel, did images of their collision in Turkey 2009 pop into your mind?
CH: Ha, they were in the minds of everyone on the pit wall!
Q: Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz said after Silverstone that Webber will race for Red Bull in 2012. Does that mean your driver line-up for next year is completed?
CH: We started talking a short time ago, so Silverstone had no effect on these talks. I always said that I expect our 2012 driver line-up to be the same. Obviously we havent sat down and signed the contract, but ultimately I expect that to be a formality. I am very happy with the two drivers we have. They push each other hard and I cant imagine any other driver in our car, or Mark Webber in any other teams car next year.
Q: Does that mean that you believe Vettel and Webber are the strongest driver pairing on the grid?
CH: I think for us this is true. The dynamics between them tells us so. They push each other harder then perhaps some others, so we are very happy with that combination. They are now together in their third year and it is logical that we are looking to extend that.
Q: Why do you think Vettel is 80 points ahead of Webber?
CH: I think Sebastian came into the season very, very strongly. He had a phenomenal first half of the year. He has won six races and had three second places. That is an unbelievable start. He carried the momentum through from 2010 to 2011. By becoming the world champion he took another step. He has more experience now and he is very comfortable in the team - you can see that in his driving and the way he handles himself. It is impossible for him to win every single Grand Prix, but he sets a very high standard for himself and has been achieving a massively high standard.
Q: He will start his home Grand Prix from P3
CH: Well, I think hes been on the front row for the last 15 races, if Im not mistaken, so at some point you lose youre the ability to imagine him starting from the second row. (Laughs) Only a few years ago we were dreaming about being in the qualifying press conference with a driver on P3! Now we expect it.
Q: How difficult is it to defend both titles and simultaneously build a car for next year? How far along is the new cars development?
CH: The lessons that we have learned this year you look to carry forward to next season. We are in the same position as we were last year. A huge amount of effort went into the championship campaign last year but we still managed to win the first race in 2011, which as a team we were very proud of doing as it is a very difficult thing to achieve. For sure the lessons that we are learning at the moment we are looking to introduce into the RB8. So some of our designers are looking into our 2012 car and with the stability of the rules, what we are learning now is relevant for tomorrow.
Q: How difficult is it to run a championship campaign and try to build a winning car for the following season? (Mercedes team principal) Ross Brawn once said that winning the championship was an exhausting endeavour
CH: It is indeed very, very difficult. We did it from 2009 to 2010 when we ended with a strong car. Weve managed to make another step forward in 2010 and weve managed to carry the momentum into 2011 with a fantastic first half to the season. And were determined to carry that momentum into the 2012 car. When you are running on Red Bull you are never exhausted! (Laughs)
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