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Christian Horner Q&A: Red Bull's 2014 a big achievement

13 Nov 2014

In the dark days of pre-season testing - when Red Bull could barely turn a wheel without encountering a technical problem - it seemed unlikely that the reigning world champions would finish as high as second in the constructors' standings, and yet they've done just that.

In this exclusive interview, team principal Christian Horner reflects on the team's impressive turnaround, as well as discussing the emergence of Daniel Ricciardo, the impending departure of Sebastian Vettel, and more...

Q: Christian, in Austin Red Bull's chances of a fifth successive drivers' title were officially ended. Realistically, how much hope was there that you could make the impossible happen?

Christian Horner: In reality no hope. Mathematically there was the chance. The fact that we kept Daniel (Ricciardo) in the championship race until three races to go, that was an achievement in itself considering the dominance of Mercedes. It was always clear from pre-season testing that Lewis (Hamilton) and Nico (Rosberg) would be the main title protagonists.

Q: How easy is it to let go after eight titles in four years?

CH: We've had a little bit of time to acclimatise to that - and look at it in another way: compared to where we started the year - and as handicapped as we've been - it's one of the team's biggest achievements in terms of recovery and fight back.

Q: Right now Red Bull Racing is a team in transition - Sebastian (Vettel) is going and Daniel will be the new leader, teamed with a young driver (Daniil Kvyat) in just his second season. Plus Adrian Newey will no longer be at the races…

CH: Adrian is still coming to some of the races…

Q: But he'll no longer be involved in the day-to-day business like he used to be. How will this affect the team in 2015?

CH: The team has evolved through 2014 and nothing in life ever stands still because standing still mostly means that you go backwards. It is good that we have an exciting evolution. When you look at how Daniel has developed this year - what an exciting talent he is! Of course it is sad to see Sebastian leave, but we are also excited about the future. Adrian will still be around. Yes, he will take a bit of a step back, but we will still be able to draw on Adrian's expertise and he's still very much involved in the design of the RB11.

Q: Will the team still have the ‘killer instinct' of previous years?

CH: The DNA of the team has not changed. The objectives don't change. The passion doesn't change.

Q: There have been rumours that you will also call it quits and head for McLaren in 2015, in place of Ron Dennis. Is the wind of change also blowing in your direction?

CH: Ha, that is the first time that I've heard about that! That is very flattering, but my commitment is fully with Red Bull Racing. I have no desire to be anywhere else.

Q: (Red Bull motorsport consultant) Helmut Marko said that Sebastian told him about his intention to leave at a dinner in Japan - when did you get to know the news?

CH: Sebastian told me literarily moments later than (he told) Helmut, and then he made a call to Dietrich (Mateschitz, Red Bull boss).

Q: Did you see it coming?

CH: Having known him now for quite a few years, you could see that after the summer break that he was quite distracted. Particularly around the time of Spa and Monza. I'm guessing there was quite a bit going on in the background with him.

Q: So you saw things going on, but were not sure what until Japan?

CH: I did not know for sure. But you don't have to be a rocket scientist to put two and two together. It is a pretty small industry! All of us are sad that he is leaving but understand his timing to take on a new challenge - and the time is also right for us.

Q: How much of his leaving can be attributed to sheer frustration over this season and how much to the Ferrari legend?

CH: I think in life everything comes down to timing. It's been a tough season for Sebastian and a window of opportunity presented itself at Ferrari. Maybe that opportunity wouldn't be there in 12 months' time! So the timing was right for him. I mean, we are all assuming that it will be Ferrari. Seb was always a big fan of what Michael Schumacher did.

Q: What's your guess: would Sebastian have stayed on if this season had gone better?

CH: I don't know. You have to ask him. We can just thank him for the fantastic years together, wish him all the best for the future and hope that he sees a lot of our rear wing.

Q: Are you surprised that Ferrari are in the position they appear to be in with regard to their 2015 driver line-up, supposedly having three top drivers signed to valid contracts?

CH: Ha, maybe they've just been very smart and anticipated three-car teams! It is just that the third driver should be a rookie and it is difficult to say who will be the rookie out of the three champions they have signed.

Q: So, in your opinion, will there be three-car teams?

CH: I hope that Marussia and Caterham get their act together. If not, and we had to run a third car, we would be in a position to. But we will need to know pretty quickly - it's already November. Logistically it would be painful, but if we are called upon to do it then yes, we would be able to support it.

Q: After Abu Dhabi Sebastian will no longer be a Red Bull man. What are some of the brightest moments you shared with him?

CH: Seb won 38 Grands Prix for us - he won four world championships. Some of my highlights with him are his first win for the team in Shanghai (in 2009), winning his first world championship in Abu Dhabi against the odds (in 2010), his comeback drive in Sao Paulo in 2012 to win the championship - that was one of the most stunning comebacks. And 2013: take any pick of the 13 races that he won.

Q: Finally, what will you say when you send him on his way?

CH: Thank you! We wish you well for the future and hope that you will never be a stranger to Red Bull - but next year you're a competitor!