F1 » 18 October 2011
Horner not under-estimating 2012 title task
Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner expects Ferrari and McLaren to redouble their efforts to topple his team after successive F1 title sweeps.
Red Bull Racing appetite for success shows no sign of being satisfied by the two F1 world championships the team picked up in recent weeks, although team principal Christian Horner admits that its rivals will be more fired up than ever to dent the team a hat-trick.
Speaking in the wake of the 1-3 finish in Korea that confirmed RBR as constructors' champion for the second consecutive season, Horner confirmed that technical chief Adrian Newey was already hard at work on the successor to the all-conquering RB7, and had opted to miss the trip to Yeongam in order to press on with the design and development programme.
This year's car has now claimed ten wins - all in the hands of drivers' champion Sebastian Vettel - and only had its run of pole positions broken at 15 when Lewis Hamilton snatched fastest time in qualifying for the Korean Grand Prix on Saturday. Since Red Bull emerged as a true F1 force in the second half of 2009 - almost succeeding in toppling Jenson Button and Brawn GP from the head of the championship - Newey's machines have grown steadily more dominant, with Vettel and Mark Webber sharing nine race wins in 2010 before the German clinched the title in a four-way showdown in Abu Dhabi. While the Australian has not been fortunate enough to mount the top step of the podium this season, his steady form has made back-to-back constructors' titles enough of a formality that there is nothing left to fight for over the remaining three rounds.
Horner, however, knows that his team cannot afford to rest on its laurels ahead of 2012, especially with the likes of Ferrari and McLaren chomping at the bit to topple the iconic blue machines from the top of the pile.
"It would be foolish to underestimate the likes of Ferrari - they are a phenomenal team with tremendous pedigree - or the likes of McLaren and Mercedes Benz," Horner was quotes as saying by Reuters before joining the exodus from Mokpo, "We are not foolish or arrogant enough to think that this kind of performance is normal. It's abnormal and it takes a superhuman effort to try and achieve. Our competitors are going to be pushing hard over the winter."
"It never gets easier, that's for sure, [and] focus has to start moving towards next year. We've got less than four months to design and build a completely new car. That's why Adrian elected not to attend this race. He's busy back in the UK focused on our RB8."
Horner also confirmed that Red Bull would not stop developing its current car in case something can be learned that will prove beneficial for the 2012 campaign, when both substantial and subtle design changes are being required by the regulations.
"The remaining races are the only track time that we've got, other than a young driver test, between now and when the new car is effectively born," he said, "So we'll look to learn everything we can out of the track time that we have available. And that means pushing right up to the chequered flag in Brazil."
'Pushing to the chequered flag in Brazil' will not necessarily be what Red Bull's rivals want to hear, but gives Vettel the chance to match or surpass a couple of landmarks should the team remain the one to beat. The German needs to win all three remaining races to equal Michael Schumacher's 2004 haul of 13, and pole position in India, Abu Dhabi and Brazil would see him pass Nigel Mansell's 1992 tally of 14, albeit having had a longer season in which to achieve the feat.
However, records aside, the team wants to go one better than it managed in 2010, and secure the top two positions in the championship.
"I think the priority now is to get Mark into second in the championship," Horner revealed, "Effectively its like three FA Cup finals, so I think they will be really exciting races. Both McLaren and Ferrari have been competitive here and I think it will be tight in India, Abu Dhabi and Brazil."
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