Exclusive Q&A with Red Bulls Christian Horner 26 May 2012
Mark Webbers pole might be an inherited one, but its still pole - and at the circuit where it matters most. On top of that, after his 2010 victory here Webber knows how to win on the Monte Carlo streets. No wonder, then, that Red Bull team principal Christian Horner is convinced his boys will shine on Sunday
Q: Christian, what was that this afternoon? Was that pure mixed emotions?
Christian Horner: It was an exciting qualifying - Mark was competitive throughout all three sessions. He took two sets of new super-soft tyres into Q3. His first time was fine, then he dropped a little bit of time in the first sector and when he arrived at the end of Mirabeau I think he was about one-tenth down on his best lap, so the last three-quarters of the lap was phenomenal. He did an incredible job. He was so quick through the Swimming Pool section and in the last three corners he nailed it. He crossed the line and had the provisional pole position and then Michael went a fraction quicker, but of course with his [Schumachers] penalty Marks lap becomes the pole, which is the best possible place to start the Monaco race. (laughs)
Q: What happened to Sebastian Vettel?
CH: I think we made a little change between sessions that didnt quite suit a single lap. Sebastian, from the beginning of the session, was not as settled as Mark. Thats why we needed to take a set of option tyres to make sure that he got into Q2. And then in Q2 again he was not totally happy with the car, so basically we were faced with some strategic options: if you qualify sixth or seventh here, are you not better off doing something slightly different and having the freedom of [tyre] choice? And that is what we selected to do. So he was the only driver out on the prime - and seeing everybody else on the options, we pitted him before he finished the timed lap, which gives him freedom of tyre choice for tomorrow.
Q: When looking back at the race results of 2011, one name was clearly dominating: Sebastian Vettel. Now we are five races into 2012 and that name only shows up once. How do you cope with that?
CH: Well, things are different, but the fact is that arriving at race six of the season he is leading the standings, so he hasnt done too badly. Probably he is not too happy with today, but I am sure that he still can have a strong race. Hes got the freedom of strategy - and look at the qualifying sheet: there are some surprises. We had to learn in the last five races that in todays Formula One everything is possible - and I can tell you its going to be a really interesting race tomorrow.
Q: It was the perfect love affair between Sebastian and the RB7. It doesnt seem to be so with the RB8
CH: There have been significant rule changes over the winter, and what Sebastian achieved last year was something very special - that wasnt your normal season. But you have to see that hes also had some fantastic races this year. His win in Bahrain, his moves that he made in Barcelona after the bad luck he had there. He is driving even better, but we can see that the form is variable with these tyres at the moment. Looking back at the first quarter of the season weve learned an awful lot of lessons and know that we are going in the right direction for the middle part of the championship.
Q: What feedback do you get from both your drivers? Are they different from each other?
CH: No, their comments are not fundamentally different, but sometimes they are different in little things. Take today: Sebastian made a small change to the car in the morning and, bang, there you have it: he is outside the window. Maybe Jenson Button was having the same conversation today. He looked so good until qualifying and then dropped out in Q2. That is how it can go.
Q: Five races, five winners, five different teams. Is that the result of the tyres? And will the championships be won and lost on tyre management?
CH: Firstly, who would have guessed that Pastor Maldonado wins a race before Lewis Hamilton, so there is a certain element of unpredictability. You would have had pretty good odds on that win! With the combination of regulation changes and the tyres the formbook has been turned upside down and weve got teams who have been performing very well you wouldnt automatically have on your list. I think the fans love it. I think they want to see rivalry between three, four, five drivers - thats a wow factor. And when you look at the viewing figures - they are better than ever. Maybe that is not good for our blood pressure in the teams (laughs)
Q: Is the time of one team or driver dominating over? Will we see many title contenders and at least four teams in a tight fight for the constructors championship?
CH: I think there are an awful lot of brains in the teams looking at what these tyres require and I am sure as we move through the season that we will see more standardized patterns start to settle down. But at the moment it doesnt show any signs of it. But when you look at the championship table, there are still the big names in the front. I think that consistency at the races that you cant win - to score the maximum points possible - will do it. Consistency after 20 races will prevail.
Q: Luca di Montezemolo said that Ferrari can still win the championship. Fernando Alonso is even with Sebastian on points, so what do you say about your championship chances?
CH: Well, we come here to Monaco leading the standings, so Id like to see us also leaving in that mode. But the fact is that youve got six or seven drivers that ultimately could be world champion. Fernando is driving tremendously well and so are Sebastian and Mark with a very strong weekend so far. Hamilton will be a factor, Button will be a factor, Kimi (Raikkonen) came back strongly, so it will be interesting to say the least.
Q: F1 always meant full throttle. Now it seems that the one who is the fastest at driving slowly will have the upper hand. What is your opinion?
CH: I think that when regulations change, drivers adapt. They are really good at adapting. Whether it is refuelling, the disappearance of refuelling, whether it is the tyres, the downforce level, or the traction control, or no traction control, they adapt. Thats why they used to call Alain Prost the Professor - with all the gadgetry of his time.
Q: So do you have to be a professor these days?
CH: I think what weve seen is that the drivers do adapt to the cars they have. Our drivers did a tremendous job at that.
Q: But are they also good at driving slower than they actually could?
CH: Well, thats part of the discipline.
Q: Victory in Monaco is somehow like winning a small championship trophy. Sebastian did it last year, so what do you see for this weekend?
CH: Well, to win in Monaco is always special and we did it two consecutive years with Mark in 2010 and Sebastian last year. But this race is one out of 20 and we have to do well in all of them. It is great to start from pole position, but it is a long and tough race and very unpredictable with the tyres. If I consider a swim should we win? Lets worry about that tomorrow (grins)
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