Red Bull Racing has '100 per cent' cured the reliability issues that threatened to derail its Chinese Grand Prix glory and is now fully focussed on triumphing again in Bahrain this weekend – with Christian Horner admitting that the spectacular Shanghai success was undoubtedly a 'monkey off the team's back'.
The weather undeniably played a part in Sebastian Vettel's victory last weekend, with the young German's RB5 and the sister machine of team-mate Mark Webber clearly working extremely well in wet conditions – arguably better than any other car in the 2009 field. Happily and perhaps crucially, there was also no repeat of the 'rogue' driveshaft woes that had hampered the duo's pre-qualifying preparations.
That, cynics have mused, means the pressure is on for the Milton Keynes-based outfit to prove it can win in the dry too – and Sakhir this weekend will assuredly be that. Horner may joke that 'we were very good in the wet, so maybe we would be alright in the sand', but he knows that the squad now has to keep delivering.
“It was a fantastic result for the team, for Red Bull [and] for Mr [Dietrich] Mateschitz, who has put so much effort into the teams and into Formula 1,” RBR's team principal acknowledged. “It was a massive high. It was a monkey off our back to get the first pole, first win and a one-two. We have had great support from our partners, with quite a good engine and I thank Flavio [Briatore] and Renault for that. It has been a great week, and the whole team in Milton Keynes have worked tremendously hard to achieve that result. We have just got to do it again now. We did not have long to enjoy it and we are focussed on the next one.
“I think our performances in the first two races were very encouraging – even before the China result we had qualified in the top three in Melbourne and in Malaysia. We were unlucky not to get a podium in Melbourne, so the performance of the car had already been there. We knew through winter testing that we had a very good package; the challenge for us is to maintain the momentum against the bigger teams and keep up the level of development. That is going to be a big challenge, but everybody is focussed on that back in the UK.
“The encouraging thing is that we know that we have performance still to come from the underbody of the car now that the regulations are clear regarding diffusers, so we have got that step to look forward to. The team is obviously very, very focussed on building on what we have achieved. There is still a long way to go in the championship and these guys (the other teams) aren't going to be hanging around. They are going to be coming back very soon.”
Indeed, many fear just how quick the Adrian Newey-penned RB5 will be once it is
fitted with a 'double-decker' split-level diffuser – reckoned to be worth as much as half a second a lap in terms of time benefit – with their only minor relief Horner's suggestion that the device is unlikely to be race-ready before Monaco. Whilst joking that 'we heard Flavio has set up a business for diffusers with holes in – he is coming to the market very shortly with it, so I am sure we will be taking one very soon', the Englishman did concede that 'for us it is quite a big job because of the different back end solution that we have compared to our competitors'.
Though the teams may compete against each other on the track, finally, Horner – a former racer himself – is adamant that off-track, in the guise of the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA), harmony is all-important, particularly in the light of the top flight's dramatic cost-cutting drive at present. Following a solid start to what is an unprecedented alliance between the sport's contenders, now, he stresses, the key is 'to keep going'.
“In Formula 1 you have three important parties,” the 35-year-old underlined. “You've got the teams that are now working within FOTA, you've got the FIA and you've got the commercial-rights holder (Bernie Ecclestone) – and especially in challenging economic times it needs all three parties to work together very carefully and very closely.
“I think a lot of good work has already been done through FOTA working with the FIA, with the cost reductions that we've seen so far for this year – the engine cost reductions, the testing reductions just to name a couple – but it's important to keep going because we've only just started. I think that the next couple of months are going to be crucial to really safeguard the future of Formula 1, not just for 2010 but for the next five years.”