Christian Horner was effusive in his praise for Sebastian Vettel following the German's peerless drive in the heat of Sepang on Sunday – clearly impressed by the manner in which the sport's youngest-ever grand prix-winner maturely handled the disappointment of Bahrain and Australia to hit back with a vengeance in Malaysia and get his F1 2010 title bid firmly on-track.
Having set pole position in Sakhir and Melbourne, Vettel looked odds-on to mount the top step of the rostrum in both, but he ultimately ended up frustrated after a spark plug failure caused him to fall back to fourth place in the desert kingdom, whilst suspected wheel-fixing woes sent him spinning into the gravel trap shortly before half-distance Down Under.
That left the 22-year-old some 25 points shy of the world championship lead and on the back foot arriving in Malaysia, but he answered those who said victory was vital in the third race of the season with a sublime performance to vault himself into equal-second position in the chase for the crown, just two points off the top. Red Bull Racing team principal Horner contends that having dealt with the Milton Keynes-based squad's early issues with such aplomb, Vettel is now perfectly primed to mount a successful title challenge.
“He's been remarkable,” affirmed the Englishman, a former racer himself. “If anything, he was cooler than a lot of other people in that he knows he's got a fast car and his motivation has been sky-high because of that. He was in a position to win the first two races; he didn't, but at least he was in a position to do that. Now he's got this victory out of the way, so we're on the scoreboard properly with both drivers.”
Indeed, even better still for RBR was the fact that team-mate Mark Webber made it a commanding one-two just behind Vettel, meaning the energy drinks-backed outfit is now right in the thick of the battle for constructors' glory as well – though Horner conceded that there were a few frayed nerves as the laps counted down towards the chequered flag in Sepang.
“In the last 30 laps I think everybody in the team aged about three years,” he quipped. “The car ran faultlessly, but after you've had two difficult races, you're listening for every noise and looking at every sensor. The car was impeccable for both Mark and Sebastian, though. Leaving Melbourne was really frustrating – it should have been the type of result we've had here, but thankfully this race was only seven days later and we're leaving feeling a lot better.”