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Q & A with Christian Horner

Controversy erupted again at Red Bull Racing on Saturday after the team decided to give Sebastian Vettel a front wing which belonged to Mark Webber's car.

The Australian was angry at the decision and the team had to defend itself again from suggestions of favouritism towards Vettel.

AUTOSPORT heard from team boss Christian Horner on the issue.

Q. Can we now say that Sebastian Vettel is now your favoured driver in the world championship?

Christian Horner: I don't think so. I think that you could see today that the performance between the guys was very, very close and very, very tight. Unfortunately we found ourselves in a situation with only one front wing of a certain specification which was slightly different in characteristics. Both drivers tried it yesterday and one had a better preference for it over the other. And it was tried by both again this morning.

Unfortunately sometimes I have to make a difficult decision - and with only one wing available and the facts to hand that we had, and based on championship position – which was the criteria that we used – that wing went to Sebastian today.

Q. But isn't that the point – that basing it on championship position, Sebastian is ahead – so he is being favoured....

CH: No, what I am saying is that we brought two wings here. We ended up with only one and had to make a decision. My job is to make difficult decisions sometimes and based on the facts to hand – the wing had a different characteristic. Ironically it should have been better in the first sector, which is where Mark is slightly stronger than Sebastian. As you can see, they were very closely matched today and that was the basis of the decision that was made.

Q. But you cannot imagine that Mark gave up the wing voluntarily. So what did you explain to him?

CH: Basically it is a team decision. The drivers don't specify the car. They never have and they never will. So it was a team decision. Adrian [Newey] wanted to run the wing and based on the fact that the wing was to be run, then I have to make a decision as to which car it will run on. And obviously the logical position, based on championship position but also P3, was that is went to on this occasion Sebastian.

Q. But in the wake of the mess after Turkey, are you not just digging yourself a hole to make a decision like this, because everyone already thinks that this team favours Sebastian? Aren't you just compounding the problem?

CH: I don't think so. Our job is to do the best job we can as a team. Sometimes you have to make difficult decisions. It is the first time we have been in a situation where we have only had one component, and I am sure that happens up and down the pit lane. Obviously when you have two drivers running at the front, there is perhaps a bit more emotion attached to it. But if you take away the emotion and you look at the facts, it was an entirely logical thing to do.

Q. But the thing here, it is not like you only had one wing and you chose to give it to Sebastian. You had two wings, it fell off Sebastian's, and then you had to take it off Mark's car to give it…

CH: Both drivers, as you saw yesterday, swapped wings between the cars. They both had on-off tests with both wings, and yesterday the tests were inconclusive as to whether one was better than the other. There was nothing in lap time and there was a feel and characteristic different where last night even one driver had a preference of the wing over the other…

Q. And that driver was who?

CH: That driver was Sebastian.

Q. So Sebastian liked the new wing more than Mark?

CH: Yes, he liked the characteristics of the wing.

Q. What do you mean by the characteristics of the wing?

CH: Perhaps a little bit more aggressive on the turn in. But as I said, it was very difficult to quantify a lap time different between the two. But, based on the facts that we had and the fact that we only had one component, sometimes as a team we have to make difficult decisions. And unfortunately, today we did not have two front wings and today I had to decide which side of the garage it went.

Q. Does Mark still have an equal chance of this championship, with you having a policy that difficult decisions will favour the series leader? Is he on the back foot?

CH: We don't plan to have a scenario like this. If we were favouring one driver we would give that driver a spare wing as well. We would not run with having two available to one driver.

We will continue to support both drivers in the best and absolute fairest way that we can. But on some occasions you have to make a difficult decision, and today was one of those instances.

Q. But would you admit that this is effectively favouring Sebastian?

CH: You can interpret it however you like, but in terms of performance – there is no lap time delta between the two. It was mainly a characteristic feel…

Q. Would Mark agree with that opinion?

CH: I haven't spoken to Mark directly after qualifying, but he looked very happy with the balance of his car. Ironically in the first sector he was the quickest of all the cars.

Q. So if the roles were reversed you would have given it to him?

CH: Yes. We have not found ourselves in the situation before where we have only had one component, and my job is to do the best job I can for the team and today that has meant making a difficult decision. But it is a decision that we have applied logic to.

Q. Is the next job for you to be a psychologist and give him the feeling that he is not the number two?

CH: Mark knows the way we operate as a team. He knows that with that decision there was no malice behind it. There was no manipulation. It was purely that we found ourselves with a single component and, from a team point of view, some days I have to make difficult decisions. We've got two cars that have finished first and second. There was less than one tenth between them. Mark was quicker in Q1, it reversed in Q2 and there was nothing between them in Q3. So, they were at best separated by one tenth of a second all the way through qualifying.

Q. But you still have a very unhappy driver – Mark sat through the press conference looking very annoyed, and said he was sure the team would be happy with the decision it made today?

CH: Mark is a competitive guy. He is pushing hard. Nobody likes to be beaten by their team-mate – especially by such a close margin. But at the end of the day, they both drive for the team. We've given Mark a great opportunity to perform in a front-running car. He is doing a great job, driving brilliantly well, and today we had to make a difficult decision. But tomorrow I would make the same decision – because the team is bigger than any individual.

Q. But this is a raw topic so soon after Turkey?

CH: I am sure that if you go up and down the pit lane you will see these issues being applied in every single team.

Q. But in the balance of fairness, if the same situation arises in the future, will you give it to Mark next time?

CH: Today we have based this on championship position – and on the performance in P3. They were the two fairest criteria we could use. Mark has certain components on his car that have been produced, that have come out slightly lighter, and have gone to his car. If we were looking to be unfair in every way, everything would be weighted towards Sebastian – and Sebastian would have had a spare front wing. But that wasn't the case. There was only one, and a difficult decision had to be made.

Q. Do you feel some sympathy for Mark, and understand that he may feel he has been stitched up a bit?

CH: I don't think he was stitched up at all. It is a difficult situation where we haven't got two components. If I'd have given it to Mark you've the same situation in reverse.

Q. But it broke on Seb's car and was deliberately taken off Mark's. It's different…

CH: The wings are interchangeable. Sebastian didn't break the front wing. From a team point of view we effectively had two configurations of wings, Adrian's preference was to run that wing, to race it here, put race mileage on it this weekend.

And on that basis, after discussing it with Adrian and him agreeing that yes he wanted to run it, then obviously it's down to me make a decision as to which side of the garage it goes to. It's an important development direction for us, important to gather that data, and it wouldn't be right for the team to sacrifice that by leaving it on the shelf this weekend."

Q. Are you scared the fight between them could be fraught now tomorrow?

CH: They both drive for the team, are employed by Red Bull, and I'm sure they'll both do the best job they can for the team.

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