Q & A with Christian Horner

Red Bull Racing found itself at the centre of the main story at the British Grand Prix two weeks ago when a decision to hand Sebastian Vettel a new front wing erupted into a major favouritism row

Q & A with Christian Horner

Arriving in Germany on Thursday, the Silverstone issue remained one of the major talking points in the paddock - although the team is confident that it has dealt with the situation to its satisfaction so that there is no lingering tension.

At Hockenheim, team principal Christian Horner spoke to a select group of media at length about the post-Silverstone fallout, explaining how his team will deal with repeat scenarios in the future and he also cast some fresh light on the build-up to the decision made before qualifying that caused such trouble.

Q. What are the lessons you've taken out of the events from the British Grand Prix?

Christian Horner: The main one is to turn the radio off after the race! No seriously, I think Silverstone, first of all, was a fantastic performance for the team. It was our second race win in a row, so to win at Silverstone is one of the big events and Mark [Webber] drove a brilliant race from start-to-finish.

Sebastian [Vettel] was unlucky with the touch at the first corner with Lewis, but then his recovery drive was equally impressive. There were a lot of positives to take out of the weekend and it was a shame that it was overshadowed too much as to whether Mark was going to be leaving us or not after the race. But that got quickly dealt with, and there is a real determination in the team to go out there and get the best result we can this weekend.

Q. Do you think that having the issue of favouritism blown back out into the public, and having been discussed openly this week, will actually prove to be a help in the long term - because there will be no tensions simmering away below the radar?

CH: Mark and I have known each other for a long time. We had a good discussion after the race. We had a good discussion between Adrian [Newey], myself and Mark after qualifying. We had a good chat, and Mark is a very straightforward guy to deal with. Not a lot of time was wasted on talking about the recriminations of Silverstone, whereas there was a lot of focus on the remaining nine races.

Q. Is the front wing back this weekend? And if so, how many have you got this weekend?

CH: The front wing is back this weekend. The plan is to run it this weekend and both drivers will have it tomorrow. Hopefully we will have enough to support both of them throughout the whole weekend.

Q. How many have you got? Two at the moment?

CH: We've got a little bit more than that...

Q. So, three then?

CH: ...[Smiles]

Q. The main issue was your decision to give the wing to the championship leader. Was that something that should have been clearer heading into the weekend.

CH: It was a situation we didn't expect to find ourselves in. Basically, to revisit again the issue - the situation was quite clear.

After P3 both wings were deemed to have damage to them. Sebastian's wing was definitely un-runable and there was a suspected issue on Mark's wing after P3. So both cars were prepared with the previous front wing for qualifying.

Half an hour before the qualifying session it turned out that the wing that had run on Mark's car, the defect was not a material defect and the component was absolutely safe for purpose and Adrian was happy that we should run it. Therefore with only one component we had to decide pretty quickly as to which side of the garage it should go.

Both Adrian and I felt that the criteria of championship position was based on what they had done on track, and it seemed to be the fairest. That will be criteria that, should we find ourselves in the same position at any of the remaining races, we will use in the same circumstances.

Q. Was it ever considered not to run the new wing and to give both drivers the old one?

CH: Well, up until half an hour before qualifying both cars were set-up with the previous front wings. It was a very late-minute okay that was given to the one component - so it wasn't that the one wing was taken off Mark's car and put on to Sebastian's car. It was a question that neither wing was going to be available up until half an hour before qualifying - and then a decision had to be made that, once one of the components was deemed to be runable, a decision had to be made about which side of the garage is should go to.

Q. Did you consider tossing a coin?

CH: We did, but we felt that it wasn't very scientific. We discussed that, and at the end of the day we felt that championship position was what had been done on track and was the fairer criteria - and that was the criteria that we will stick with. At the end of the day, other teams have similar decisions to make, whether it is with a chassis with a big-enough fuel tank, whether it is fitting a car with a new exhaust on it, whether it is who runs an F-duct first. Those decisions have to be made up and down the pit lane and unfortunately this one got a little bit more air time than perhaps it warranted.

Q. So you can confirm that if the wing situation repeats itself and Mark is in a better position, he will get the wing?

CH: Yes. If the component fails through no reason of the driver - and let's not forget that it wasn't because Sebastian had smashed the wing, it was a component that failed - then the same rules will apply. But we will work very hard to hopefully not be in that unenviable situation again.

Q. Do you think from a marketing point of view, it is better to have Sebastian as a champion than Mark?

CH: No, absolutely not. Mr. [Dietrich] Mateschitz has always told me that he doesn't care whether he has the oldest or the youngest world champion - as long as it is in a Red Bull car. There is no internal or Red Bull preference to see one driver win over the other.

Q. McLaren is snapping at your heels. How do you see the battle progressing from here?

CH: I think we are approaching the business end of the championship now we have gone past the halfway point, and it is very tightly matched. We've won more races and they have accumulated more points and are ahead of us in both championships. So, we are the pursuer rather than the pursued. It is important that we get both the cars up the front, scoring as many points as possible. Some of the tracks will hopefully suit us and some of the tracks for sure will suit McLaren's strengths. And one must never underestimate Ferrari as well.

Q. What about Spa and Monza from an engine perspective?

CH: I think the middle section at Spa, we will be very strong!

Q. Are events like Silverstone and Turkey a distraction for you at a time you should be focused entirely on performance to try and nail the championship, rather than worrying about fighting fires?

CH: Istanbul was a racing accident at the end of the day. We saw one of those happen between Fernando [Alonso] and Felipe Massa on the first lap at Silverstone, but when you are running fifth and sixth it doesn't gain as much coverage as when you are racing for the lead of a grand prix. I think far too much was made of Silverstone and the team is very, very focused on the next nine races. It is important we do the best job we can. We have won five out of 10 races so far - 50 per cent of the races - which is a pretty impressive record. We only won six races in the whole of last year, and people forget how far the team has come in such a short space of time. For sure there are always lessons that can be learned, and perhaps our learning curve at times is slightly steeper than some of the other teams, but the passion, the commitment and the dedication that exists within the team is what has made the team, and continues to make the team, as strong as it is.

One of the ethics of Red Bull is freedom of expression, and perhaps we do that more than other teams - sometimes we get criticised for it, sometimes we get complimented for it. But, we do our best, as the drivers well know, to treat them with as much parity as we feasibly can.

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