Exclusive Q&A with Red Bulls Christian Horner 08 Feb 2013
After leading Red Bull Racing to three championship doubles in the past three years, its perhaps no surprise that team principal Christian Horner has just renewed his contract. With the new RB9 putting in a typically solid if low-key showing in Jerez testing this week, we spoke to Horner about the coming season, the big changes for 2014, the Webber-Marko dynamic and more
Q: Christian, obviously you feel that blue suits you - or was there something else that made you commit to Red Bull again?
Christian Horner: It was a natural extension for me - something that was logical. I came into Formula One with Red Bull - Dietrich Mateschitz gave me the opportunity, and that at a quite young age - so it was a pure formality to extend our relationship.
Q: How was your recent visit to Ferrari? There has been speculation in the press that you went there to talk about more than just Formula One racing in general
CH: Ha, that is the Formula One media that we know. But believe me, it was a meeting over the future of Formula One - and it was very well natured and very productive.
Q: That the grass might be greener on the other side never crossed your mind?
CH: Never. Never at all. What we have achieved at Red Bull Racing is extremely special and my commitment has always been one hundred percent to the team. The meeting at Ferrari has absolutely nothing to do with me personally - it was all about the future of Formula One.
Q: So how do you think the future of Formula One racing looks?
CH: The interest in Formula One is as high as ever. We had a fantastic championship in 2012. With the teams having reached an agreement with the commercial rights holder for a long period it is important now to plan into the future. We see exciting things happening within Formula One, with new race venues coming up in future years, so sometimes its good to sit down with a small group and discuss some of the bigger issues.
Q: Youve had some time to rest on your laurels over the winter, but from this week on reality bites again. Are you ready to bite back?
CH: Absolutely. True, it has been a pretty short winter - racing finished at the end of November and December and January were consumed with producing the new car. Plus somehow you had to fit Christmas in the middle of it, so it has been a very short off-season. But that didnt diminish our sky-high motivation, producing the car in record time and coming to the first test here in Jerez with a consistent running car.
Q: The new car is ready, despite the team pushing until the very last race in 2012. Is the RB9 again going to be the car to beat?
CH: The fact that weve been able to be so late with the focus on the 2013 car is because the rules are pretty stable, so obviously everything we learned in 2012 has relevance. The car is very much an evolution of the RB8 - which obviously was a successful car.
Q: What is different to the RB8? Will it be another stroke of genius from Adrian Newey? What feedback do you have from Mark Webbers two days of testing and Sebastian Vettels first run today?
CH: That the devil is always in the detail. The feeling of the car is pretty much the same as its predecessor - just more refined. But overall it was an encouraging start of the life of the RB9.
Q: That devil in the detail - obviously its a smaller devil for you than for some of your competitors
CH: Well, we had a very good basis. The family of cars that has grown out of RB5, RB6, RB7, RB8 and RB9 - its a natural evolution that you can see. You can see the family resemblance. (laughs)
Q: What about the 2014 car? Are you running two design units?
CH: No, we dont have that big amount of resource. It is a matter of balancing your resource between 2013 and the challenge of 2014 - which is a significantly different car with a big regulation change. That is one of the major challenges of this season - to juggle both developments.
Q: Coming to the human element in the team, the relationship between Mark and Red Bull motorsport consultant Helmut Marko is obviously not the easiest
CH: Ha, I doubt that they will spend Christmas together. But there is one thing that they share - they are both racers. And probably they act as such sometimes. Mark is in the team because we believe in him - and if he didnt believe in the team he wouldnt have re-signed for this season. Helmut is a racer, as we all know, and sometimes gives opinions on how he sees things - and obviously these are his opinions.
Q: Sometimes there is the impression that you and Helmut deliberately play the good cop-bad cop routine. Is this something you sit down and discuss?
CH: No. Helmut has a very straight outlook on things and has never been shy to give an opinion. So the good cop-bad cop thing is just too much being read into comments. Both drivers get the same support and it is down to what they do on the track, as it has been in the last few years
Q: Is big success a burden? Could it be that its success and not money that really changes everything?
CH: Truth is, with success comes expectation. And our team won six championships in three years - only a few other teams have managed that. When you are at the top you are there to be shot at. With every season that has gone by the pressure hasnt reduced. 2012 was a tough year, but we really rose to the challenge and it is our determination to take the momentum into this season and not to lose it.
Q: Does that give you sleepless nights - the thought of losing it?
CH: Of course there is that fear. But on the other hand we have achieved these six world championships and it is up to the others to raise their game. What we have achieved nobody can take away from us - that weve won 34 races, three constructors championships and three drivers championships. That is in the record books.
Q: Sebastian has grown up in the cockpit and in the public eye, bagging three titles along the way. Now he is a man and probably starting to realise there is a life outside of motor racing. Will he continue to deliver as he always has?
CH: Absolutely. Hes a young man - only 25-years- old - but hes always had a wise head on young shoulders. He loves the sport, he is passionate about it, and the good thing is he is continuing to develop and continuing to improve. He is the most successful current driver in Formula One - and at such a young age. He is the benchmark. And more good news about Seb - the best is still to come!
Q: Can you tell us the differences between your two drivers? They are treated as equals, yet one has won three championships while the others best result has been third in the standings
CH: They are both phenomenally good drivers, so never underestimate Marks achievements. But Sebastian is one of the best drivers Formula One has ever seen, so to go alongside Sebastian is extremely difficult. Look at it this way: as a combination they have achieved an awful lot. Together they have won 34 races for the team: 25 with Seb and nine with Mark. The statistics speak for themselves.
Q: Can you give three reasons why 2013 will again be Red Bulls year - and three reasons it might not be?
CH: How can you answer that? All I can say is there is a huge desire and motivation and a will to succeed in the team. Whether that will be good enough, ask me at the end of the year. (laughs) And three reasons against? There are more than three Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes and Lotus - they will be pushing very hard to beat us.
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