Feb.6 (Red Bull) Team principal Christian Horner has been at the helm of Red Bull Racing as the team scooped four world titles in two years with Sebastian Vettel, the RB7 and RB6 respectively. On the day of the launch of the team’s 2012 challenger, the RB8, Horner reflected on the season past and gave his thoughts on the year ahead.
Four world titles in seven seasons is an impressive achievement. What has been the reason for this? Christian Horner: The main reason for our achievements is teamwork. It’s quite simply the group of people that are here at Red Bull Racing and Red Bull Technology working as one unit. That’s obviously taken time to evolve, but we’ve evolved quickly. We’re still a young team and to consider the four world titles we’ve won in only seven seasons of competition is something we’re fiercely proud of and determined to add to.
What are the team’s goals now? Horner: The team’s goals are quite simple. It’s to try and defend both titles in the manner (in which) we achieved them. Of course, when you’ve achieved what we have, particularly in 2011, we’ve set a very high standard for ourselves. But, we’re always looking to improve, we’re always looking, in all areas, to try and do better. We can’t control what our opponents do, we’re up against some formidable opponents, but we can only really focus on ourselves and only when we get to Melbourne will we truly know where we sit against our rivals.
How can Sebastian match his 2011 success? Horner: Sebastian’s season in 2011 was quite remarkable. It was a phenomenal year for him, with a record amount of poles, 11 GP victories and only one non-finish – in every other race bar one he was on the podium. So, for him to go better than that is going to be very, very challenging. But, as a driver, he’s still evolving and he’s still getting stronger. We saw that in 2011 and I think we’re only going to see that again in 2012. You forget he’s only 24 years of age and it’s such a young age to have achieved so much. I think that, as he gains experience and as he gains knowledge and matures, he’s getting stronger and stronger.
Do you expect a bigger challenge from rivals this season? Horner: I think on the grid this year we’re going to have six world champions, and McLaren have a strong team, they’ve got strength and depth and two world class drivers. Fernando Alonso: everyone knows his capability, and Ferrari also being a great team. We have Kimi Raikkonen coming back as well; Mercedes also look like they’re going to be competitive, so I think Formula One is set for an exciting year and at Red Bull Racing our goals and objectives are to try and stay ahead of our rivals and build on the success that we have (had) and build on the lessons that we’ve learned in 2011
How will Mark bounce back after a tough season last year? Horner: I think the best tonic for Mark was to finish the year strongly – to win that final race, to go into the season having won the Brazilian GP. I think he’s had a very strong off-season. He’s recharged his batteries, he’s trained hard and he’s come back looking fitter and leaner than ever. He’s in strong shape for the season ahead.
Have there been any problems with building the car this winter? Horner: This year’s car build has gone fantastically well, and I think it’s the epitome of continuity, continuity across all areas. I think we’ve designed and built this car in a record amount of time, in a ridiculously short amount of time. Adrian’s never famous for his drawings being early, but the design team, the production teams, all the associated departments that go into producing these cars, have delivered, and delivered in a fantastic way. We’ve hit our target of being at the first test so, despite the snow over the latter part of this week, I think we’re in great shape for the first test.
Can you describe what that first day of testing is like? Horner: The roll out of a new car is always filled with great anticipation; it’s almost like going back to school for a new school year. Of course, you’re keen to see what your rivals are doing (and) of course they’re looking to protect the secrets of their car also. Pictures are scoured over; we’ll all be looking at what rivals have been doing over the winter. It’s the longest time we spend away from each other, from Brazil to the first race, but we’ll be very much focused on our own performance. We’ll be looking to sign off the first systems checks to make sure the car is performing and working in accordance with how it was designed and get those checks out of the way. We then get into testing proper, because we have a very short amount of time this year – only three tests that are split with only one car between two drivers. It’s a short amount of time and only offers a few days for each driver, before starting on the grid in Melbourne.
Tell us a little about the return of Sébastien Buemi as test driver. Horner: Sébastien is a product of the Red Bull Junior Team, he’s had three years with Toro Rosso and he’s now an experienced grand prix driver. We decided to retain Sébastien as our test and reserve driver as he knows the team well; he’s technically very strong (and) he has that grand prix experience that is wholly relevant. He will be doing a lot of work for us this year on the simulator, conducting our aerodynamic tests and other activities, so it was a logical step for us to take him as a reserve driver – not only for Red Bull Racing but also for our sister team at Toro Rosso.
How will the team cope with such a long, 20-race season? Horner: Twenty races is a tough season. It’s a long year. It’s going to be a challenge – there are a lot of back-to-back races. To start in March and finish in November… but I think with good planning and good preparation it should be manageable. I think it’s going to be an exciting season. Of course there will phases of strength for different teams (and) the most important thing is to be consistent over the full season. So, we will be determined to start strongly in Melbourne and finish strongly in Brazil.
How happy are you with where the team is at now? Horner: I’m very happy with where the team is now. I think that we’ve evolved as a team, as a unit. I think we have tremendous strength and depth and I think that we’ve enjoyed great continuity over the last few years. As we’ve evolved and as departments have worked closely with each other you can see, in the detail of the car and the continuity that we’ve had in our production techniques and our development rate (and) in some of our simulation tools, that (it) all adds up to achieving the kind of team work that we strive for. I think we’re well set for the season ahead. You can never take anything for granted. We certainly don’t underestimate the quality of our opponents, but we’re going into 2012 with a lot of determination to keep the two trophies in their cabinets.