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Christian Horner Q&A: Fifth and sixth more than we hoped for

07 Sep 2014

After victory in Belgium, Red Bull arrived in Italy with high hopes, but in the end, despite the best efforts Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel, the podium was just out of reach. But rather than being disappointed, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was satisfied that his drivers got all they could out of the RB10 at Monza…

Q: Christian, are you satisfied with finishing fifth and sixth in the race?

Christian Horner: Yes, when you look at the fact that the cars in front of us and behind us had Mercedes engines - than yes, it is a good result. To finish in P5 and P6 was the optimum for us and when you consider the last three races where the Mercedes-powered cars have really dominated, then you probably have to admit that it is more than you could have hoped for.

Q: Daniel [Ricciardo] and Sebastian [Vettel] ran slightly different strategies. Was that best for both drivers? Sebastian was a bit unhappy with his…

CH: We were racing against the McLarens - we were in that train with [Kevin] Magnussen, [Jenson] Button and [Fernando] Alonso and it was a question of going for the undercut and going for track position in that situation, or going for tyre conservation. So we decided to go aggressive with Seb - we went for the undercut - and obviously it worked in terms of the guys he was racing - the McLarens and Force India. The situation with Daniel was that he was not part of that train. With Daniel we didn’t have to consider an undercut but rather to keep him out until the tyres hit the cliff and then give him the freshest tyres that we could for the end of the race. And Daniel was really impressive at some of his overtaking. He managed to get behind Sab - and in this situation Seb’s tyres were six laps short of keeping his position.

Q: This race was packed with many fantastic overtaking manoeuvres - and one of them was Daniel’s on Sebastian. Do you agree?

CH: Some of Daniel’s moves were spectacular, with huge precision - and Seb’s defending of his position was also great racing. It was a fantastic afternoon for the fans. And if anybody ever had a question mark over Daniel’s overtaking skills before he joined Red Bull Racing, that this was a fantastic demonstration today.

Q: When reflecting on strategy, would you say that the race situation dictated your strategy? Was it planned differently?

CH: Nothing different was planned. We had a race situation and were reacting to what was going on around. With Seb, we been racing in a sandwich with the McLarens and we weren’t getting past them as we didn’t have enough speed, and as soon as [Valtteri] Bottas passed Magnussen we decided to go for it - go for the undercut - and get the track position to Magnussen - which worked. And then it was all about tyre preservation for him until the end of the race. Unfortunately versus Daniel we were probably a bit too aggressive on the strategy. But at that point of the race it was impossible to predict that outcome.

Q: Helmut Marko said that the strategy was a clear mistake - do you agree?

CH: I think we went aggressive with Seb and towards the end of the race that put a lot of pressure on him as the tyres were in really bad condition and Daniel had much better tyres at that stage. But how can you predict that at the time you make that decision? I think that Daniel’s progress through the field was much quicker than we had expected and the degradation on Seb’s car went up significantly towards the end.

Q: At times this year Seb has called for a more aggressive strategy - did he get more than he bargained for today?

CH: Today we were not so much looking at the tyre situation as we were the track position. In hindsight we now know better, but at other races - for example Hungary or Montreal - he was just unlucky with the timing.

Q: Knowing all that now: would you have opted for another strategy?

CH: In hindsight you are always smarter. When the McLarens pitted we could have probably called Seb in one or two laps after that - but how would you know?

Q: Why did you call Daniel in so late?

CH: We left him out as long as possible and pitted him at an optimum time for him when his tyres started to fade and then gave him what we felt was the best chance of beating Raikkonen. But not only did he beat Raikkonen, he drove past Raikkonen, and he drove past a McLaren, a Force India, another McLaren and finally caught Seb as well. His performance after the stop was remarkable!

Q: When looking at the standings, could a situation occur where you lean the efforts towards Daniel?

CH: We’ll let them race as we trust them. They race each other hard but extremely fairly. The points difference between Daniel and the two Mercedes is enormous, so it does not make any sense for us to interfere.

Q: It’s another race in which Daniel has beaten Seb. Do you have to start reassessing Seb?

CH: True, so far it’s been a difficult year for Seb, but that is not down to his own making. On the other side Daniel has been driving incredibly well, so the credit should be given to Daniel and how he has been driving. Sebastian seemed to be reasonably happy with the car in the early stages of the race, so it was not a lack of pace today but the way the different strategy worked out.

Q: The next stop will be Singapore - a track that should suit the Red Bull better. What hopes are you pinning on Singapore?

CH: Singapore has a couple more corners and a few less straights so that should suit us. We are looking forward to going back there - we’ve always done well there! But there are no guarantee in this business. We definitely expect the Mercedes to be quick there - and Williams will be a factor again as they have been throughout the summer. But hopefully we should be a lot closer to the ultimate pace than we were here.