Defending double world champions Red Bull Racing are 'better-prepared' in F1 2011 to handle the inevitable pressures of being involved in a title fight, Christian Horner has asserted, after watching Sebastian Vettel speed to an unchallenged victory in the curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne at the weekend.
The common consensus throughout pre-season testing – although Red Bull was, and to a certain extent still is, at pains to deny it – was that the Adrian Newey-designed RB7 was the fastest thing on four wheels in F1 this year, and Vettel's utterly dominant performance around the streets of Albert Park only served to confirm that suspicion.
It was certainly a far better start to proceedings than twelve months earlier, when the German had similarly dominated Down Under, only to be denied glory by a loose wheel nut. That was one of a number of such misfortunes for RBR in F1 2010 as the energy drinks-backed outfit made hard work indeed of its eventual world championship success – but this time around and now with the added confidence that comes with having two titles underneath its belt, Horner insists things will be different.
Praising his young protégé's
flawless performance to seal not only Red Bull's maiden Melbourne triumph but indeed its first-ever podium finish there, the Englishman is convinced his team will be able to up its game accordingly when its rivals – and most notably McLaren-Mercedes, who ran Vettel closest in Australia – fight back.
“As a team you learn, you learn from the victories, you learn from the mistakes,” reflected Horner. “As a group, we are still very young, we're still progressing and we are still moving forward. I feel that we are better-equipped than last year to deal with the championship, and the undoubted pressures that will come.
“We came here confident that we'd had a good winter, that we had done our homework and our preparation, and we felt that we arrived in better shape than any previous season. In terms of our competitiveness, we thought we were close to Ferrari, but just ahead or just behind we weren't really sure – so [qualifying] was quite a surprise to ourselves, the pace difference, particularly as we had elected on Friday not to run the KERS system.
“I don't think we can expect another 18 races like we saw here, though. You know that Ferrari will come back strong, you know McLaren won't sit still – they made a big step coming here this weekend – but we've got some good stuff in the pipeline, and the way the team is working is fantastic.
“[McLaren] have made massive steps, they are a great team and they always have a strong development during a season – [but] we out-developed them last year, we did it the year before and we will be determined to try and do it again this year.
“I think Sebastian's drive was a very, very controlled drive, and I think he showed huge maturity in the way that he controlled his pace, in the way that he dictated from the front with the communication he gave to the engineers. He has now won three races in a row, bookended the 2010 and 2011 seasons, and obviously his confidence is very, very high.