Fresh off the back of comfortably its finest season in F1 to-date, Red Bull Racing will learn from its mistakes and return even stronger still in 2010, asserts team principal Christian Horner – and will remain very much 'a big factor' in the world championship fight.
Having totalled 103 points and three podium finishes from its four previous campaigns at the highest level, RBR broke all boundaries in 2009, with six triumphs – four for Sebastian Vettel, and two for team-mate Mark Webber – and a genuine drivers' and constructors' title bid that ran all the way to the penultimate grand prix at Interlagos in Brazil last month.
As breakthroughs go, it was a highly impressive one, seeing Vettel come within eleven points of depriving Brawn GP rival Jenson Button of the crown – and the young German arguably conceded more ground than that through a combination of bad luck and bad judgement along the way. What's more, the Adrian Newey-penned, Renault-powered RB5 was the class of the field for much of the year – leaving Red Bull's adversaries fearing the team may just prove unassailable in 2010.
“Expectations always rise,” Horner recognised, “but we have to remember we've got some great competitors that we're racing against. We beat quite comfortably Ferrari and McLaren this year, but they will be back next year – they're both great teams – and Brawn will be strong I'm sure. However, with continuity, with a great team here and with two excellent drivers, I see no reason why we can't deliver and build on the success that we've seen in 2009 in 2010.
“One [priority] is having a fast car, so building on what we've already produced this year, and [the other priorities] will be reliability and consistency – as we saw this year, Jenson Button only non-scored in one race, which is a remarkable feat, and Rubens Barrichello only in two races. That demonstrates how crucial it is to be picking up the points even when you're not in a position to be winning races from the front. I think reliability, consistency and a fast car are key to success in 2010.
“My prediction for next year is that Red Bull will be a big factor in the championship again. It's up to us to build on what we've learned, and we can't underestimate our competitors who are formidable teams. We're still a very young team, but we will build on this year and learn lessons from this year – and we will come back stronger.”
Re-affirming that the energy drinks-backed outfit's driver line-up of Vettel and Webber is 'fixed' – “Sebastian has been a member of the Red Bull family for so many years now and has really grown with the team, and Mark's contract was renewed earlier in the summer,” he explains – Horner also revealed that an engine deal will be finalised soon, with Renault expected to be retained despite some criticism about its lack of power and reliability in 2009.
“We will have to make an engine decision very shortly,” the Englishman acknowledged. “We've enjoyed a great relationship with Renault over the last three years – they treat us with excellent parity and have been an important part of our success this year. We will have to consider very, very carefully if we are to change engine-supplier for next year. We are reaching a position in our own minds, and we will firm that up I would think very soon.”
Finally, the 36-year-old – a former racer himself – admitted his relief that the controversial KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) technology will be gone in 2010, and shared his thoughts on the refuelling ban, which has been instituted both on safety grounds and in a bid to shake up the on-track action.
“All the teams thankfully have agreed not to run [KERS] next year, because it's a very expensive system,” Horner opined. “I think Formula 1 has a responsibility to look at environmentally-friendly initiatives such as KERS, but that's been postponed for the time being in 2010 as the manufacturers look at a budget KERS or a much more cost-effective KERS from 2011 onwards. The cost of KERS is hugely significant, especially for an independent team, and I think this year it hasn't really contributed to the racing, with some teams running with the system and some not.
“I think the most significant change is the ban on refuelling next year; that is going to mean teams are going to start races with almost 170kg of fuel in the car, so the cars are going to be really heavy at the start of the race. We're going to have probably one or two pit-stops during the race and [drivers will] have to manage the tyres really well, so it's going to be fascinating to see how teams manage that situation. That introduces new challenges with the car design, but in principle the rest of the regulations remain relatively stable.”