Q & A with Christian Horner

Red Bull is in the driving seat in the ultra-close title battle at present, with Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel first and third in the drivers' standings and carrying momentum with them after dominating at Suzuka, while the team has a chance of clinching its first constructors' championship this weekend in Korea

Q & A with Christian Horner

AUTOSPORT heard team boss Christian Horner's thoughts on the title fight and the twists it could take at Yeongam.

Q. So how are you enjoying the Korean experience?

Christian Horner: It is remarkable considering all the reports. They have obviously built what is an impressive track, and obviously it is the first phase of the development here but from the circuit point of view it looks great. The drivers seem to like it and we will see how it is in practice.

Q. Is the layout and configuration totally as you expected from your simulations?

CH: I don't know yet, we will see! There are not corners where they shouldn't be. I did ask Bernie [Ecclestone] to put a corner in on the straight when they were still laying the asphalt, but unfortunately that doesn't look like it has been accommodated!

It looks like a good layout. It looks like a challenge - and certainly the second half of sector two and three, looks a good blend of high and medium speed corners. So it is going to be interesting.

Q. Do you have any updates to the F-duct that will help you on this track?

CH: We've been evolving and fine-tuning the F-duct since its introduction. Inevitably here there is a slightly further refinement, and it is a still a reasonably new development for us. We felt that there was untapped potential that we have been trying to exploit during the last few races.

Q. Is this the one venue of the final three that you feel is the weakest for you?

CH: That is difficult to say. We expect the McLarens to be very strong in the first sector and it will be interesting to see here what generates the lap time - is it sector one, or the second half of two and three? We have been competitive at every track bar Monza, so we are relatively confident and hopeful that we can be strong this weekend.

Q. Would you say you have had the fastest car for the last two races - crushing in Japan but you were faster in Singapore too?

CH: I think Singapore came down to one qualifying lap. Fernando [Alonso] did an outstanding job, but unfortunately Sebastian did not have a clean Q3 and that one lap was the difference between the race victory that day. The pace of the car was strong there, it was strong in Suzuka and our target is to maintain that performance during the final three races.

Q. Was it the new bits that you put on for Singapore that made a difference?

CH: We've evolved the car this year very well. The way that the technical team have worked has been very efficient this year. We have rarely had to take components off the car, if at all, this year - and that is a credit to the technical guys and the guys in production that pretty much every update that has been introduced has raced.

Q. Red Bull Racing can win the constructors' championship here in Korea. How proud would that make you?

CH: Obviously it would be a huge achievement for Red Bull Racing, but at the moment, with 43 points available from each weekend, things can change very quickly. Our focus is very much on achieving the best result here we can, which means beating our peers in McLaren and Ferrari. Then the championships will take care of themselves.

Q. What is the strategy - to just look at one race at a time, or is there something different?

CH: It will be like it was at every grand prix this year. We will look to optimise our performance, out of the package that we have. This race is one of 19 and we will approach it in exactly the same way as the previous 16 events.

Q. How do you see the battle between your two team-mates at the moment, because it has ebbed and flowed a lot?

CH: As we saw in Japan, they were separated by seven hundredths of a second in qualifying. And then there was nothing to choose between them in the race, so I expect it to be very close between the two of them. At Brazil, Mark won last year, and in Abu Dhabi Sebastian won. So I expect the two of them to be very close in pace to each other.

Q. Is Mark going through what Jenson Button experienced last year - with the pressure of being world championship leader and the fact you don't need to take as many risks?

CH: I think Mark has handled the pressure extremely well. With Jenson, we did not see him on the podium [much] in the second half of the year, whereas Mark has been consistently running at the front. I think you cannot compare the two, to be honest with you. Jenson did all his performing in the first third of the year, and then chipped away and did a good job of maintaining a lead, but we did not really see him in the second half of the championship. Whereas this is to-ing and fro-ing between potentially five title protagonists.

Q. Do you think that Mark going back to Australia after Japan has helped him a bit?

CH: Both drivers have stayed on this side of the world, and took a little bit of time out to focus on their training and not to come back to the European time zone and come back again. Mark is in a great place at the moment. His confidence is high, and Sebastian likewise. We have two drivers in excellent form, and my objective is to keep them in that form until the end of the season.

Q. Are they making your life hard because of the fact that Vettel has come back hard into the championship fight - and there is a danger of Fernando slipping through the middle?

CH: Nobody has a crystal ball, so it is impossible to predict what will happen in the next three races. We've said all the way along that we will treat both drivers equally which is what we have done our best to do - and that will continue to be the case until one mathematically is impossible to win. Both drivers have got a great opportunity, but neither can ignore Fernando or Jenson or Lewis, and ultimately it is the team that they rely on very heavily. As a team it is important that we maximise our performance. There is a healthy rivalry between the two of them, as you saw in Suzuka.

Q. How is their relationship bearing up now that they are locked in a title fight, because they have had their flashpoints this year?

CH: What you have to remember is that what is potentially at stake is the biggest prize in motorsport. I think that the relationship between the two of them has been remarkably good considering what they are competing for. It is open. They have different personalities but from a team perspective they are both performing very well and pushing each other - to bring the best out of each other. From a team perspective, that is exactly what we want to see.

Q. Looking back to Japan, how much did your two drivers have in reserve?

CH: Japan was a little bit of a strange one because you had two things to consider. One was that there was expected to be higher degradation on the option tyre in the first stint so we were not quite sure how far we needed to go on that tyre, so both drivers did an excellent job of nursing their tyres through the early stages. The pit stops were executed well, and strategically we covered Alonso with both of our drivers to maintain position, which is always tricky when they are in that situation. The ability of one of them to lose out is quite high.

Then we were faced with a different dilemma where Jenson [Button] was running on a different strategy, on the hard tyre - and it was going to be highly unlikely and highly risky for our drivers to overtake him on the circuit. We knew we had to pit but at that stage, he was a good second off the pace. So you had a scenario of what looked to be a McLaren sandwich at that stage which was starting to concertina as Jenson was backing the three leaders up towards Lewis.

The scenario never unfolded due to the technical problem that Lewis had and they obviously they had a few clear laps to try and build the gap, and then preserve and nurse the cars home to the end of the race. So they were never full stretched during the grand prix, but quite often to win a grand prix you don't need to be winning it by half a lap - the most important thing is to win it, not how you win it.

Q. How significant do you think experience of the big occasion is?

CH: Both of our guys have performed at their best under acute pressure, and I think both of them have got the character to deal with the situation. I don't believe any of the drivers have been in this situation where it has been so tight between so many, so it is new for all of them ultimately. It is a matter of taking it one race at a time, because both of our guys are very well equipped to deal with the pressures that come at the end of a championship.

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