As he eyes a hat-trick of successive victories for his team in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone this weekend, Christian Horner has reflected that Red Bull Racing could never have anticipated enjoying such a 'dream start' to the F1 2011 World Championship campaign – but now, he stresses, 'we've got to keep that momentum carrying on', underlining that nothing can be taken for granted.
Despite the season having been billed as one of the closest and most unpredictable in recent memory, in truth, 2011 has been a Red Bull benefit right from the word 'go'. The defending double world champions have claimed every pole position to-date – on three occasions sealing a front row lockout – and Sebastian Vettel has triumphed six times from eight races. On the only two occasions on which he has failed to ascend the highest step of the podium – in China and Canada – the young German led until the very closing stages.
Quick to praise Vettel's performance – one that has lifted the 24-year-old a staggering 77 points clear of any of his adversaries in the title standings – RBR team principal Horner is similarly supportive of Mark Webber in the sister car, the Australian having struggled to match his team-mate's searing pace thus far, primarily due to difficulties in adapting his driving style to Pirelli's tyres.
“It's been a great first half of the year, but we've got to keep that momentum carrying on into the second half now,” the Englishman told Crash.net
at last weekend's Goodwood Festival of Speed, where he got behind the wheel of the late Ronnie Peterson's 1971 March 711, describing it as 'a bit like something out of Wacky Races' with its 'funny front wing' and confessing that 'it was great fun...it's a great car, it's in great condition and [it was] just a privilege to drive an old F1 car like that up the hill'.
“Before the season, it's something you wouldn't believe, but to have come so close to winning all of them and to have won six out of the eight and been second in the other two is a dream start. The Ferraris and McLarens and Mercedes' have varied from race-to-race; some have been competitive at some, others have been more competitive at others. We tend to focus more on our own performance, and the most important thing is for us to keep ourselves out front.
“It's been a remarkable first eight races, but there's still a long way to go. Sebastian has built up a good lead, but we take nothing for granted. His confidence is very high and he's enjoying his driving; he's got that bit more experience and the added benefit of being the reigning world champion. He's enjoying that, and he's performing flawlessly at the moment.
“[With Mark, the problem has] mainly been the degradation on the tyre, but he's getting his head round that now and as we saw, the last race (in Valencia) was probably his strongest in terms of race pace so far this year. He's got himself into a good position now.
“We're very happy with our two drivers. Seb's under a long-term contract, and with Mark, we mutually agreed we would take it one year at a time. He's driving very, very well at the moment and we're not thinking about anybody else. At the relevant time, he and I will sit down and deal with next year.”
Looking shorter-term rather than long-term, though, Red Bull's immediate focus is upon its 'home' race at Silverstone, one that it has dominated for the past two editions, with the Northants circuit's sweeping high-speed layout traditionally suiting Adrian Newey's creations right down to the ground. The engine-mapping rule adjustment in Valencia seemed to make scant indent into the team's qualifying pace – but is Horner concerned that the greater exhaust modifications this weekend will hurt the Milton Keynes-based squad rather more..?