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Horner: Title tension was good for F1 – if not for us!

3 December 2010

In an exclusive interview with Crash.net Radio, Christian Horner has reflected on what he describes as a 'phenomenal' and 'enthralling' double world championship-winning campaign for Red Bull Racing in F1 2010 – one during which he admits it gave him a great deal of pride and satisfaction to see his team emerge on top.

There were times over the course of the year, however, when Red Bull looked determined to do everything in its power to give the titles away, for despite benefitting in the Adrian Newey-penned RB6 from what was indubitably the fastest car in the field, the energy drinks-backed outfit displayed an alarming propensity for tripping over banana skins – or occasionally even tripping over itself.

The inaugural Korean Grand Prix just three races from the end of the season, Horner acknowledges, was just such a howling own goal – with a galling late-race engine failure for long-time leader Sebastian Vettel allied to an early accident for team-mate Mark Webber in the treacherous conditions handing the advantage in the chase for the coveted crown to Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.

“Coming back from Korea was obviously one of the toughest races to pick ourselves up from,” the Englishman mused. “Having qualified on the front row and been in a commanding position for 90 per cent of the race, to lose that grand prix was particularly difficult and to couple that with Mark's retirement earlier on – which resulted in him losing the lead of the drivers' championship – made it a very, very tough day for the team.”

It is in moments of adversity, however, that inner strength truly comes to the fore – or, to paraphrase a much-covered pop song, when the going gets tough, the tough get going – and just a fortnight later in Brazil, a must-win race for RBR, the team put not a foot wrong all weekend as Vettel and Webber swept to a resounding one-two, and with it sealed the constructors' laurels for the Milton Keynes-based brigade.

“We picked ourselves up and brushed ourselves down, and what I was really happy about in Brazil was that we optimised completely the performance of the drivers, of the cars and of the team,” Horner underlined, confessing that it was an emotional weekend for all concerned.

“We navigated through a very difficult qualifying session, got ourselves into a good position on the grid, saw a good start and a good first lap from both drivers and then were able to focus on settling down and building up a lead. It all turned out tremendously well, and it was fantastic to achieve a one-two finish and our first constructors' championship.”

One down then, but one was still to go, with the tussle for drivers' glory remaining unresolved heading into the Abu Dhabi finale just a week later. Having stuck doggedly to its guns – in the face of significant criticism – by refusing to ask Vettel to move out of the way for Webber at Interlagos, it meant the Australian arrived in the Middle East needing to overturn an eight-point deficit to pip Alonso to the prize, and the German, 15. Against all expectations, it would turn out to be precisely the right call.

“Leaving Brazil and going to Abu Dhabi, the drivers' championship looked to be a bit of a long shot,” Horner conceded. “After the damage that had been done in Korea, it looked as though it was going to be really difficult to make that ground up. Both drivers went into the final race still in contention, though; we had elected to stick with our strategy – which was, I believed, the right thing to do – to support both drivers equally by not switching them in Brazil.

“It was obvious that Sebastian was going to need a little bit of luck, but he had a perfect weekend and it all worked out well for him; he delivered in qualifying and in the race, and Ferrari didn't quite get it right on that day – but it's not all about one race. You've got to look at the championship as 19 events, and I think it was phenomenal for Sebastian to only lead it at the end – the first time of the year, but also the most important time. It's been a tremendous performance by him this year to become the youngest-ever world champion, although obviously it was disappointing for Mark, who has put together a very impressive campaign.

“I think it's been a phenomenal year for Red Bull in F1 – to have ended up winning both the constructors' and drivers' world championships [and securing] nine grand prix victories, 15 pole positions and 20 podiums is an awesome achievement, and something the whole team and every member of Red Bull is very proud of.

“The one thing we've never taken for granted is the competitiveness and heritage that our rivals have and the challenge they present us with. You've got the tremendous history of Ferrari, the indisputable achievements of McLaren, the might of Mercedes – so to have come out on top of those teams is all down to teamwork, to every single department working in unison to achieve the objective. It's just a fantastic team performance by all members.”

Rewarding indeed to get the better of adversaries of such an immensely high calibre and with such outstanding records of success, it was similarly gratifying to triumph in what was only RBR's sixth season on the grand prix grid, meaning the energy drinks-backed outfit has come a long way indeed in such a comparatively short space of time.

As to individual highlights along the way, Horner picks out the one-two around the streets of Monaco – the celebrated jewel in F1's glittering crown – as 'a very special result for the team', as well as the 'big, big moment' in Brazil and the 'phenomenal feeling' of doing the double in Abu Dhabi.

Asked, finally, as to whether he was at all frustrated that given the dominance of the RB6, the drivers' duel went all the way down to the wire, he insists that the way in which the season panned out in the end was good both for Red Bull Racing...and for the sport in general.

“That's an interesting way of looking at it,” smiled the 37-year-old, a former racer himself. “Ultimately, I think it was a fantastic result, and it was great that a Red Bull driver won the world championship. Of course, if luck had smiled on us a little earlier in the year...

“If you look back at Sebastian's year, for example, there were a minimum of three and probably more races that he could and should have won – if you think of Bahrain with the spark plug, Australia with the wheel nut, Korea with the catastrophic engine failure, he should have been sitting on more victories than the five that he scored at the end of the year.

“I think that was ultimately good for the championship, though – it would have been nice to have had everything tied up by August, but things turned out okay in the end and I think it was better for F1 the way it was. It was a phenomenal year, going into the final race with four drivers in contention and all four of those drivers finishing the race. I think it will go down in the sport's history books as one of the most competitive and enthralling seasons, which makes it even more satisfying to have finished it on top.”

TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE


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