In the wake of a tumultuous if ultimately crowning season for Red Bull Racing in F1 2010 – one that lurched from the lows of Istanbul, Silverstone and Korea to the unbeatable highs of world championship realisation firstly in Brazil and subsequently in Abu Dhabi – Christian Horner has acknowledged that 'there are situations you can always learn from'.
Whilst Red Bull finally clinched the constructors' title courtesy of a seamless one-two for Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber in the penultimate race at Interlagos, and the drivers' laurels a week later as the German handled the pressure magnificently with a dominant performance at Yas Marina, there were times during the course of the campaign when the energy drinks-backed outfit did not make life easy for itself – or, those less charitable might say, seemed to be doing everything in its power to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Aside from reliability issues – the kind that cost Vettel major points hauls in Bahrain, Australia, Spain and most notably Korea – there was the fractious, less than cordial entente
between the team's two drivers, with both ostensibly being treated equally, but the general consensus being that one of them was being treated rather more equally than the other.
Flashpoints such as the contentious collision in Turkey – for which Webber was publicly blamed by RBR's senior hierarchy, despite 99 per cent of observers holding Vettel squarely accountable – the now infamous post-British Grand Prix 'not bad for a number two driver' outburst and a tit-for-tat squabble in the build-up to São Paulo do not need going over again, but now in hindsight, team principal Horner concedes that lessons have been heeded and will not be repeated.
“Inevitably, there are situations you can always learn from,” the Englishman told Crash.net Radio
, mulling over a season during which his management methods were occasionally called into question, particularly with reference to his relationship with Webber that was palpably far from plain sailing at times. “When you've got two quick drivers, when you've got two guys that are
closely-matched and pushing to the absolute limit, it's inevitable that sometimes there is going to be a little bit of tension between them.
“They both know, though, that we have been at pains to provide them with equality to the absolute best of our ability throughout the year. They've both had an equal chance, and it's been down to what they've done on the track that has counted. By-and-large, the co-operation between the two of them has been very good this year, and they've actually pushed each other and brought the best out of each other.
“Despite all the euphoria of having just won the championship, Sebastian took time to sit down with Mark in the aftermath of Abu Dhabi and I think they had a real clear-the-air session, and that's positive. Obviously, there has been a bit of tension between the two of them, but there is a respect as competitors and I think it was very positive that they took the time to sit down and talk things through following the race. They're a strong pairing, they're both very competitive sportsmen – and that's the way it should be.”
To that end, Horner argues that both will continue to pose genuine threats to world championship glory in 2011, concurring with the paddock opinion that with a title under his belt – and as the youngest driver ever to claim it, for good measure – Vettel will henceforth only get 'stronger and stronger', and dismissing suggestions that given his advancing years and his standing inside a team that is openly being moulded around his team-mate, Webber's best shot has now been and gone.
“I think you'll see Sebastian emerge yet further,” asserted the 37-year-old, a former racer himself. “He's so young, he's achieved so much and he's broken most of the records being the youngest race-winner, the youngest guy to score a point, the youngest to get a pole position and now he's the youngest to win a world championship.
“I think that effectively is a monkey off his back, pressure that is a little bit released now in that he's achieved his ultimate target of being world champion. I think you'll see him just improve and continue to evolve as a driver, and I think he'll only get stronger and stronger.
“Mark has driven tremendously well this year. When he sits back and reflects on the season, I think he'll reflect on a really competitive year for him. At various races, he was unbeatable, and the two guys have been very closely-matched on many occasions. I think with the form Mark is in, there's no reason why he shouldn't be a real challenger for the world championship next year. For sure, there are lessons that he will have learned from this year too, and I think he'll come back even stronger in 2011.”
TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE