Christian Horner has affirmed that Red Bull Racing expects 'nothing less' of Sebastian Vettel next year than what the impressive German delivered during his maiden full season in the top flight with Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2008 – which suggests that the energy drinks-backed outfit finally has its breakthrough victory in its sights.
Vettel has graduated to the 'parent' concern after a year spent honing his craft at STR, with his stunning triumph in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza – becoming the youngest man ever to prevail in the sport – the undoubted highlight of a campaign that was sparkling enough to see the 21-year-old rated best driver of the year in a Crash.net
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With comparisons already being drawn between the man from Heppenheim and his legendary compatriot, the record-breaking, seven-time F1 World Champion Michael Schumacher, Horner admits that hopes are high.
“Nothing less than what he did this year!” Red Bull's team principal told Crash.net Radio
when asked what he expected of his new charge in 2009. “As a race-winning driver he is a great asset, and I think he's a really exciting prospect.
“We'll certainly be pushing as hard as we can – that's what we try to do at every grand prix – and the whole team are focussed on having the most competitive car in Melbourne as we can possibly achieve.”
The bulk of development testing for the new season, indeed, will now fall upon Vettel's shoulders following team-mate Mark Webber's leg-breaking accident during his Pure Tasmania Challenge, when the Aussie collided with a car whilst on a mountain-biking leg of his annual outdoor adventure marathon. It is a challenge, Horner is confident, with which the former F3 Euroseries Vice-Champion will cope admirably.
“Sebastian will drive the initial development as we kick off into next year,” the 35-year-old underlined, “but he's more than capable of doing that. He's already well-integrated into the team and we're really enjoying working with him.
“Mark is in good spirits; he's obviously in good, capable medical hands at the moment. His right leg has been pinned after he broke his fibula and tibia, but it was a clean break and he's started his recuperation already.
“He has the advantage of being immensely fit, which hopefully will help his recovery, and he'll be coming back to Europe and we'll start his rehab in an Austrian specialist clinic fairly shortly. He's targeting early February for when we start testing again – that's his focus at this point in time.