He might have described Sebastian Vettel's under-pressure victory and superb tyre-management in Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix as 'awesome' and 'a world champion's drive', but Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner has cautioned that 'things can change very, very quickly' in F1 and that absolutely nothing can be taken for granted.
Vettel's triumph from pole position around the narrow, tortuous streets of Monte Carlo marked the German's fifth from only six starts in F1 2011 to-date, enabling him to stretch out his advantage in the title standings to a commanding 58 points just shy of a third of the way through the campaign.
However, it was earned as much by good fortune as by the 23-year-old's undoubted skill and deft touch behind the wheel, as a communication problem that resulted in a tyre fumble during his pit-stop on lap 16 led to the soft-compound rubber being fitted to his Red Bull RB7 rather than another set of Pirelli's super-softs as had been intended [see separate story – click here
That meant that provided he was capable of sufficiently nursing his tyres for the remaining 62 laps, Vettel need not stop again, and after reclaiming the lead when McLaren-Mercedes rival Jenson Button made his second pit visit on lap 33 – just before half-distance – events then played perfectly into his hands.
Under attack from Fernando Alonso and Button – both on significantly fresher rubber than him – in the closing stages, the defending F1 World Champion was saved by the red flag six laps from home that enabled him to bolt on a new set of boots and subsequently withstand his pursuers over the remainder of the grand prix to take the chequered flag. Good fortune or not, contends Horner, it was a thoroughly well-deserved victory for a driver right on top of his game.
“I think the last seven days, he has produced his two best drives of his career,” the Englishman is quoted as having said by SPEED.com
. “What he did in Barcelona – which seems an awful long time ago now – and what he has delivered this weekend is absolutely fantastic! There was a lot of number-crunching going on with the strategy, and it worked. It is fantastic for him to have won his first Monaco Grand Prix.
“The plan was to 'box both the drivers on that lap, but unfortunately, the radio got jammed so the guys in the garage did not get the call and didn't know what tyres they were supposed to be putting on the car. In the end, a set of 'Primes' went onto Seb's car and that wasn't the plan – we were going to stick a set of 'Options' on to cover Jenson.
“We were on the harder tyre, and it was a question of looking at what the options were to get us back into contention. The best option was to go very, very long and even one-stop – which on lap 20 we thought was a bit aggressive, to do 60-odd laps on the 'Prime' – or looking at other options to change.
“[The opposition] made a calculated risk going another route and it did not pay off for them – Jenson made our life slightly easier by going on 'Options' and 'Options' again. [Ours] was a risky strategy, but Sebastian made it work; he knew what the situation was, and he drove accordingly to protect the tyres.