Red Bull Racing 'never take [winning] for granted', Christian Horner has insisted off the back of five victories for the team from the last six races in F1 – but whilst he acknowledges that the energy drinks-backed outfit's troublesome KERS 'power boost' is presently 'quite immature', he is adamant that it is not
the main focus at the moment.
Having elected against using KERS in the F1 2011 curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne following reliability issues during Friday practice Down Under, Red Bull took the plunge in Malaysia last weekend and fitted the system onto the cars of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber for qualifying and the race in Kuala Lumpur – and it was a tactic that backfired.
The luckless Australian's KERS failed before the grand prix had even got underway – costing him no fewer than seven places off the start and leaving him at the mercy of his rivals on the Sepang International Circuit's two long straights – whilst Vettel was plagued by intermittent issues that led to him having to switch his device off for much of the second half of the race.
Given the short timeframe available to investigate the spate of problems, RBR is not expected to run KERS in this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai – around a track that features one of the longest straights on the F1 calendar – causing some to speculate as to whether the sole real chink in the RB7's armour will end up costing the team dear.
Horner, however, is adamant that Red Bull is already beginning to better understand the system and that the team will soon get on top of the difficulties it has encountered with KERS – although refining it, he stresses, is not the main objective right now.
“We've gathered a huge amount of data,” affirmed the Milton Keynes-based squad's team principal, “and we plan to build on the experience we've had. With a system that is quite immature compared to some of our rivals, we just didn't want to take too many risks in arguably one of the harshest environments for it (Malaysia), so we became a bit conservative in our usage.
“McLaren and Ferrari are our chief concern. You can see that performance can ebb-and-flow. Ferrari looked to be having a very strong race (in Malaysia). We just need to focus on optimising our own performance, and we've managed to win the two opening grands prix of the season, which is a tremendous start. We'll look to build on this form as we head to China.”
Indeed, notwithstanding the KERS woes, Vettel does
hold a flawless 100 per cent record in 2011 thus far, and Horner contends that if anything, tyres are a far more significant factor in the sport's bold new era this year and 'the biggest performance differentiator'.
To that end, a lightning-fast 2.7-second pit-stop for the defending F1 World Champion at Sepang, the Englishman argues, is clear proof that Red Bull Racing remains firmly committed to the pursuit of glory.
“Within this team, it's very simple,” explains the 37-year-old, a former racer himself. “You can see the thrill and enjoyment the team get out of winning. You can see it in the expression of every team member's face – they never take it for granted. You can see it when they've completed a good pit-stop, a good qualifying, all those factors.
“The work ethic is tremendous at the moment, not just with the guys at the track, but also behind-the-scenes within the less glamorous departments – the electronics guys, the inspection guys. They're all just going that extra yard – and it's paying dividends.”