Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner has backed reigning F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel to grow in confidence and ably handle the pressure of being the defending title-holder in 2011 – adding that 'it's easy to forget how young and relatively inexperienced' the German still is.
At just 23 years and 133 days of age when he sped to a seamless victory and with it the drivers' world championship laurels in the Abu Dhabi season finale in November, Vettel became the youngest competitor to do so in the sport's six-decade history.
It was far from a straightforward campaign – with myriad reliability woes, moments of costly impetuousness and an uneasy relationship with team-mate Mark Webber – but it was one that Horner contends made Vettel stronger, and as such well-placed to do something that only eight drivers have ever achieved in F1 by making it back-to-back successes in 2011.
“Sebastian will go into the 2011 season as the reigning world champion, and I think his confidence will grow,” the Englishman told Crash.net
. “It's easy to forget how young and relatively inexperienced he still is, but I think he goes into the year well-equipped to deal with the additional pressure of being the reigning world champion and I think he will continue to improve as a driver as he matures.
“Mark had a great campaign in 2010 and led the world championship for a large part of the summer, and I'm sure he will come back motivated and fired-up for the season ahead, too.”
Ah yes, Webber, Red Bull's 'forgotten man' in many observers' eyes in F1 2010, and by the Australian's own outspoken admission, something of an inconvenient afterthought – but the party line coming out of the Milton Keynes-based squad at the moment is one of unity, and of a healthy rivalry and respect between the fiercely-competitive duo, if not anything that will ever come close to resembling a friendship.
“It's a healthy relationship,” Horner corroborates. “They push each other hard and bring the best out of each other – I think they're every bit as strong as any other pairing in F1, if not stronger. The fact that between the two of them they won nine grands prix last year demonstrates that. We're very, very happy with the pairing that we have. They're both very quick, and they've been a very successful pairing in the two previous seasons they've been together.”
As to the manner in which senior RBR management handle Vettel and Webber's internecine duel and tensions, finally – with memories of Istanbul and Silverstone still very fresh in the memory – whilst stopping short of accepting that a different approach might be beneficial in 2011, the 37-year-old former racer did muse that lessons can be drawn from every experience.
“You're always learning, in every event and every weekend,” Horner acknowledged. “Of course there are always things to reflect on, and that's something I think Red Bull is very good at, looking at ways to improve across the entire company. Whether it's drivers, engineers, technicians or Adrian [Newey – chief technical officer] and myself, we can always learn and we can always improve. That's what we strive to achieve here.”