Exclusive Q&A with Red Bull's Christian Horner 17 Mar 2012
The qualifying result had many in the Melbourne paddock rubbing their eyes in disbelief. For the first time - in a long time - Red Bull failed to make the front row of the grid but instead had to settle for row three, with Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel occupying the fifth and sixth slots respectively. Team principal Christian Horner discusses Saturdays action at Albert Park and explains why he believes his drivers can turn the tables on McLaren on Sunday
Q: Christian, do you feel qualifying went your way?
Christian Horner: It was okay. Probably not more than that - but it was okay! I would say that the rain on Friday disrupted our usual preparations a bit. Despite Sebastians spin on Saturday morning everything was normal, but as I have predicted before, this season will be much closer than in 2011 and we will definitely find an answer to that new challenge.
Q: To start the season not on pole is rather unusual after your 18 poles last year. Are you satisfied?
CH: Well, you are never totally satisfied, so today is no exception. And Im not telling you a secret if I say we are rather surprised to start from an untypical third row with both cars. But that is racing and sometimes you have to go backwards to fully attack again.
Q: Is Sebastian Vettels newly-christened RB8, Abbey, a close relative of the championship-winning Kinky Kylie? Or a distant one?
CH: Yes, despite this afternoon, I would say that there is a very close relationship between Kinky Kylie and Abbey. Abbey is an evolution of Kylie and we now have to see that we can do to bring out this kinship.
Q: Where are your competitors in the pecking order?
CH: Well, we kind of knew that McLaren would be the team to beat and that Mercedes and Lotus had made a huge leap forward over the winter. And that is exactly what weve seen today. My guess is that you cannot even write off Ferrari either. They have always had the strength to bounce back over the course of the season.
Q: The tyres will be crucial this year, as there doesnt seem to be one single car that is a sure-fire winner. In 2011, according to Pirelli, there were only two teams that were able to use the tyres to their full advantage - yourselves and McLaren. Will we see something similar this season?
CH: The tyres have evolved slightly over the winter and I think they have a slightly broader range, so I dont think that we will see the same happening again and the whole grid will be able to use the tyres to their needs.
Q: Vettel was said to be the guy who made the best use of the Pirellis in 2011. Will it be the same this year? And how much will that help him get back on the front row?
CH: Well, Sebastian very quickly understood what the tyres needed and I am sure he will also adapt very quickly this season. Reading the tyres will be a crucial part of winning the championship- as it was last year. We have to give him a car that is able to win thats all.
Q: So is he happy with the interplay between car and tyres so far?
CH: Due to the limited winter testing it is impossible to make a final verdict at the first race weekend, but so far we have been pretty happy. There is that saying that a single swallow does not make a summer and in our situation that translates into the fact that one qualifying doesnt make a championship.
Q: How much did that lost day of running at the final Barcelona test hurt you?
CH: I would not say that it hurt a lot. Sure it was annoying but nothing dramatic, as we had collected enough data from Marks running.
Q: Formula One group CEO Bernie Ecclestone has tipped Vettel to win the title this year, with Webber taking second and a McLaren driver (possibly Lewis Hamilton) finishing in third. What is your prediction?
CH: Usually when Bernie bets he has got a fairly good success rate, so I hope he is right again! (laughs).
Q: He also said that to make Ferrari a winner again they would need to hire your chief technical officer Adrian Newey. Under what circumstances would you let him go?
CH: Under no circumstances. And I dont need to persuade him to stay. He enjoys being part of the team and has always made that quite clear.
Q: So from what we have seen in qualifying what do you expect to happen in the race? Will your drivers be able to turn the tables on McLaren?
CH: It will be a fiercely-fought race. It could be a one, two, or three-stop Grand Prix and that leave much room for picking the right or wrong strategy. Qualifying was not the whole picture from Melbourne.
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