Exclusive Q&A with Red Bulls Christian Horner 17 Nov 2012
It aint over til its over - that is what is on the mind of Christian Horner as his team stand on the brink of doing the championship double for the third time in three years. The odds may favour both title trophies staying in Milton Keynes, but as always Horner insists they are taking it just one race at a time. We caught up with him after yet another pole position for Sebastian Vettel in Austin
Q: Christian, its almost done: is the champagne already in the fridge back home in Milton Keynes?
Christian Horner: Ha, no! (laughs) Our focus is very much on this weekends race: trying to extract the most out of the car, the team and the drivers. We are taking pretty much one race at a time.
Q: Does that mean that you are still cautious about the situation - that its not a done deal?
CH: Sport writes its own laws. Anything can happen so we dont take anything for granted. Weve got ourselves in a healthy position in the constructors championship, but obviously the drivers championship is a lot tighter, so it is paramount for us to have a strong weekend here and believe me it is fantastic having achieved the first ever pole position on this mint track here in Texas. With Mark [Webber] starting from P3 we have strengthened our position even further for the race tomorrow.
Q: From five title contenders, three were eliminated in Abu Dhabi and now its Sebastian verses Fernando Alonso. Two very different characters, clashing as they did in 2010, when Seb got the upper hand. Why do you think Seb can do it again - and what skills in Fernando do you fear?
CH: Fernando has driven with tremendous consistency this year. I think he is at his peak. He has used every opportunity when he had them presented to him. He is a formidable competitor and I am sure the he is going to push all the way in this championship.
Q: Were you surprised by todays qualifying and the significant gap between Sebastian and Fernando of more than 1.5 seconds?
CH: I think the thing with Fernando unfortunately is that wherever he qualifies he always seems to end up on the podium. (laughs) I am sure hell make progress from starting from P8 tomorrow.
Q: In Abu Dhabi everything seemed lost when Sebastian had to start from the pit lane - way behind Alonso. How many heads were on the block for that unfortunate error in qualifying?
CH: Ha, none. We are a team and we work as a team and win and lose together. Sure the situation in Abu Dhabi was highly frustrating - for us and for Renault - but we have recovered well and limited the damage to only three points - with coming from the pit lane to the podium. That was a really phenomenal drive by Sebastian.
Q: What did the research into the cause in the factory show?
CH: We have done an awful lot of investigations together with Renault who have gone into the problem and it was a combination of factors - no smoking gun. We as a team together with Renault have learned from it to make sure that it doesnt happen again.
Q: On top of the calamities with Sebs car, Mark seemed to throw away his race
CH: Mark admitted after the race that it was not his strongest performance of the season and after such a good qualifying it was a shame that he couldnt make more out of it.
Q: Did he simply screw up?
CH: He was open and honest after the race - and it doesnt make sense to now cry over spilled milk. It is looking forward that gets you somewhere - and not looking behind.
Q: It has been an eventful season. Where would you say youve scored the big points - to use tennis terminology - that took you to where you are now?
CH: As a team we havent always had the fastest car, but as a team we have collectively worked tremendously well. We have worked hard to develop the car after the regulation changes over the winter and we have maximized our chances on occasions where a fourth position was the best on offer. We have never given up and never stopped pushing. If you are at a circuit Thursday or Friday night you will find us always in the garage - the last to leave is Red Bull. It is that working and fighting spirit - not only at races but also back in the factory.
Q: How much psychological warfare will there between now and the chequered flag in Brazil - and could it be corrosive?
CH: We are very much focused on ourselves. We cant control what other people do or say - we can only see that we are doing the best job that we can and hopefully arrive in Brazil and not look back with any real regrets. As a team we are an extremely strong unit and we are focused on the job at hand.
Q: What is the secret behind Red Bull staying so competitive now for so many years. How you do it?
CH: It is not easy and the longer you stay at the top the more people are shooting at you. (laughs) We have clearly demonstrated that Red Bulls success hasnt been the flavour for a season but something to stay with fantastic results in a short period of time. If we are to achieve a third consecutive constructors title - only three other teams in the history of the sport have ever achieved that - then that by far would be our greatest achievement.
Q: Many say that to spice up 2013 it would make sense that Fernando wins the title. How much willingness is there from your side?
CH: I would shout objection. (laughs) If we manage to beat Ferrari - a fantastic team that has been in Formula One since the very beginning with a great driver driving for them - so if you beat Ferrari and Fernando Alonso youve done a fantastic job.
Q: How do you plan for these last two races: flat out for the win or go strategic for position?
CH: We go into these last two races like we go into every race. These are two races out of 20 - the difference is just that they are at the end of the championship. Our approach is not different to the first race many long months ago in Australia. That means that our approach is to attack this weekend - and in Brazil next weekend.
Q: Red Bull Racing as a team has stayed largely unchanged for quite some time, which seems to be part of your success. How do you stop your rivals poaching your talented people?
CH: Working at Red Bull is not just a job - it is a way of life! People enjoy being with us: it is not a political team and it is a tremendously strong spirit within the team. We have so many applications from people wanting to join the team - people wanting to be part of our success story - and only by working collectively as a group can you achieve these kinds of consistent results that we have over the last four years. I am sure there has been knocks at the doors of some of our people, but we have a very low turnover in staff which indicates that people are happy and enjoy the environment. They believe in the vision of the team.
Q: Given todays qualifying, and knowing what your people can do, would you dare place a bet for the championship?
CH: I learned my lesson when I had to jump into a swimming pool in Monaco a few years ago, so I never make bets again.
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