Four points for the fifth place achieved by Mark Webber were poor reward for Red Bull Racing's efforts in the Monaco Grand Prix at the weekend, contends Christian Horner – as a misguided strategy choice and uncharacteristic error saw team-mate Sebastian Vettel's challenge end in the wall just 16 laps in.
The German had gone into the race touted as Brawn GP world championship leader Jenson Button's most likely challenger for glory around the narrow, tortuous streets of the glamorous principality – the so-called jewel in the Formula 1 crown – and with a 'double-decker' diffuser at his disposal for the first time this season, hopes were undeniably high.
A below-par qualifying performance, however, left the sport's youngest-ever grand prix-winner just fourth on the starting grid with substantially the lightest fuel load in the field, and Red Bull's election to run the 'super-soft' Bridgestone rubber on his car in the opening stint would backfire as Vettel dropped away from the pace alarmingly only a handful of laps in, holding up a whole stream of cars in his wake as he lapped as much as four seconds slower than Button in the lead.
After pitting earlier than planned to change tyres, the 21-year-old endeavoured to regain some ground – but in pushing too hard he over-cooked it at the first corner of Ste Dévote and ended his bid against Monte Carlo's unforgiving Armco barriers.
“Not much to tell,” rued the man from Heppenheim, having now slipped some 28 points adrift of race-winner Button in the drivers' standings just over a third of the way into the campaign. “I was braking maybe a little bit too late, locked the rears, lost the car and hit the wall.
“We had lost a lot of time already in the first stint, being on the soft tyres. We were confident that they would work for the first short stint, but they didn't. Of course it's disappointing, but sometimes this happens. In Monaco, you make a little mistake and you pay the price.”
Fortunately for Red Bull, team-mate Webber at least ensured some points were salvaged with a strong run to fifth position from eighth on the grid, the Australian leapfrogging Nico Rosberg and Heikki Kovalainen in the pit-stops and going on to hunt down the evenly-matched Ferrari duo of Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa in third and fourth respectively in the closing stages, getting within six tenths of a second of the latter at the chequered flag courtesy of a string of very impressive lap times.
“We're pretty happy with fifth to be honest,” summarised the New South Wales native. “To get a few points after a challenging qualifying session is pretty good. There were a few more people that came in on the act this weekend, so for us to still come away with a few points is good for the constructors' championship. The guys worked like hell this weekend to fit a lot of new parts, so it was important for us to get some points. At other venues we'll be stronger again.”
Those sentiments were echoed by the Milton Keynes-based, energy drinks-backed squad's team principal Horner, who is well aware that with Brawn now boasting more than twice as many points as RBR in the constructors' title chase, Vettel and Webber need to start beating Button and Rubens Barrichello on a consistent basis if the championship is not to turn into a one-horse race.