Red Bull Racing lost the F1 2009 World Championship as a result of too many non-finishes, Christian Horner has acknowledged – but he insists that the same mistake will not be made again in 2010.
They say statistics rarely tell the full story, but in this case they do contain a lot of harsh truths, as between them Red Bull duo Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber failed to see the chequered flag on seven occasions from 34 starts – compared to just two for the Brawn GP pairing of newly-crowned F1 World Champion Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello.
Even more tellingly still, five of Red Bull's DNFs were notched up by Vettel, the man who ran Jenson Button closest for title glory at only eleven points adrift in the final reckoning – crashing out of both of the opening two encounters in Australia and Malaysia, doing likewise in Monaco as he pushed too hard on over-worn tyres, sustaining suspension damage following a touch with Ferrari rival Kimi Rakkonen in Hungary and suffering an engine failure in Valencia. Had he retired only as many times as Button, the 22-year-old German would have required an average of only three points per extra race to prevail – and Horner well recognises that it is a key lesson to be learned.
“In reality, the championship wasn't really lost in Brazil,” reflected the energy drinks-backed outfit's team principal. “It goes on over a whole season. We've had a brilliant year, but we've had too many non-finishes unfortunately compared with the Brawns – and obviously the double-diffuser at the start of the year was a big factor that helped the Brawn performance.
“There are so many factors when you look over the season; I think it's a combination of luck and some mistakes. I think the points we dropped in the first race in Melbourne – a second place with the accident there – the ten-place [grid] penalty in Malaysia, the non-finish in Monaco with an accident, an engine failure in Valencia and obviously an incident with Kimi Raikkonen in Hungary were all expensive for Sebastian.
“There were also other races that potentially we could have had better results in – obviously the drive-through in Singapore didn't help, when I think Sebastian would have won – but then again, he's won four races and been phenomenally quick whenever he's been on the circuit. Likewise for Mark; unfortunately, seven non-points scoring finishes for him proved to be quite expensive.
“I'm sure if Sebastian went back to Australia he wouldn't fight so hard with [Robert] Kubica, knowing what he does now, and perhaps we would have settled for lesser points in Monaco, so there were some lessons that for sure need to be learned, but I think on the whole we have to look at the season very, very positively. We've scored over 150 points, had 16 podiums, six wins and five pole positions, so it's been a fantastic year for Red Bull.”
That it undeniably has, and with many tipping the Milton Keynes-based squad to come out of the starting blocks faster than anyone in 2010 – particularly with an the magic fingertips of Adrian Newey on the car design front once again – Horner contends that next year, what will be incredibly still only Vettel's third full season in F1, could just be the opportunity for the Heppenheim native to really
grab the limelight.
“Sebastian has driven a great campaign this year,” opined the Englishman, a former racer himself. “He's only in his second full year of grand prix racing, he's so young and he has so much potential – he is for sure a future world champion. He will have learned a huge amount from this year, and he will come back a stronger driver with the experience of what he's taken out of 2009.
“We've been fighting for the championship all the way, we've exceeded expectation and we've made a very big step. We've learned a lot of lessons from this year – as has Sebastian also – and I think it only makes us stronger as we go into the winter.”