Has this been the hardest season that you've known with the team, based on the expectations that have been built up?

Yes and no. I think it's been the most challenging year. As a team, if you look back over the last six years I think it's actually been one of our biggest achievements to come back from where we were pre-season. Almost having done no mileage whatsoever, to be at the end of the season second in the world championship, to be the only team to have beaten Mercedes, to have won three grands prix and have however many podiums as we've had I think has been - considering where we started and our horsepower handicap - an enormous achievement by the entire team.

What were your fears at the end of testing?
I think we didn't think we'd see the chequered flag for the first two or three races because we literally were doing ten or twelve laps as the longest stint that we'd done in pre-season testing before either the engine blew up or the car set on fire! So it was disastrous, you couldn't have a worse pre-season testing.

Although the result was expunged, did Daniel [Ricciardo]'s performance in Australia give the team the boost it needed?

Absolutely. So many times in Australia the pressure of the home crowd was intense with an Australian driver but the way that Daniel handled that ... to put the car on the front row, to drive a really calm race, finish second on the road; he did everything right that day under huge pressure. It was further than the car had gone by quite some considerable margin.

What were your expectations of him coming in to the start of the year? What did you really want to see from him at that stage?

Well we certainly knew he was quick. I'd watched him from Formula Three and his testing that he'd done for us had always been immensely impressive. I think the question marks that we had were could he cope with the pressure of being alongside a four-time world champion? Could he cope with the spotlight of being a Red Bull driver and the pressure that inevitably comes with that and the expectation of running at the front?

I think within the first two races he'd allayed any question marks that there could have been over that and exceeded not only our expectations but I'm sure even his own.

Obviously Daniel's a part of the future, but Vettel leaving is a big milestone. When you look back at everything that's happened with Seb, is that one of your proudest achievements to bring through a Red Bull young driver?

I think it's amazing what collectively we've achieved and Sebastian has been such a big part of that. He won our first grand prix, he won our first world title and went on to win another three drivers' titles which obviously played a massive role in our constructors' championships. I think that not only on track but also off track it has been incredibly fun working with him. He's worked incredibly hard, he's pushed us, we've pushed him and I think collectively we've got the best out of each other.

What about the timing of him leaving; does it feel like the time's right for both the team and him to have a change or are you really sad to see him go?

Of course everybody was sad in Abu Dhabi to see him complete his last race for Red Bull but something about it says the timing is right and that's obviously the way that it's fallen for Sebastian. Obviously while we're very sorry to see him go we're excited about the future. We know in Daniel Ricciardo we've got a phenomenal driver and in Daniil Kvyat we've got something very raw but also very exciting in a very similar way to Sebastian was.

What about the challenge of the future then? Do you feel that given a similar car to what Seb had the last few years, can Daniel emulate Seb?

I think that's impossible to predict. Different regulations, but we've got one of the very best drivers in the world in Daniel Ricciardo as he's demonstrated this year. He's only growing in confidence and growing in experience and growing in performance. I think that Danny Kvyat will push him hard; I think that's going to be an exciting driver line-up for next year. It's just a pain in the arse that they're both called Daniel!

Do you think that Kvyat's arrival has been overshadowed slightly by the fact that Seb is moving on? That seems to be the bigger story...

It's been quite convenient for him because he's sort of come in under the radar. He drove for my team in GP3 last year, his progress - particularly in the second half of that year - was phenomenal. So I've watched his progress quite closely and obviously in a Toro Rosso this year he's done an incredible good job and I think will only grow again next year.

Does it feel like a completely new start for the team?

No, it feels like evolution. Evolution not revolution. So within a team that's close to 700 people, effectively a couple of those have changed. So everything else is very much evolution.

You've got the same engine partner for next year, how big a step do you feel Renault can make?

We're working very closely with Renault and Renault are doing the right things now. They've got the right people involved, they're working tremendously hard, they know what they've got to achieve and to be honest with you even if we could half the gap it would at least enable us to give Mercedes a bit of a fight.

Were there times this year where you seriously considered changing your engine partner? That these regulations required something fresh to close the gap?

Well ... not really. It's very simple. We have a very long-standing relationship with Renault, we've won a lot of races with them. Mercedes would never give us an engine, Ferrari you can only ever be a customer there and it would be wrong to forget in a short space of time all the good we've achieved over the previous four or five seasons with Renault.

So what we've chosen to do is the harder route but to get more embedded, more involved in the organisation. Both Viry and Milton Keynes now are much closer together.

How much will that relationship change next year compared to this year?

It will evolve. It will evolve but it will be a much tighter involvement between Milton Keynes and Viry.

There was a management change after the summer which was very positive, and I think other aspects we're taking on more and more aspects of design and simulation in the UK. So that's only complementing the work that Renault are doing in Viry.

What about the threat from Honda coming in? Do you see that as another team that could potentially challenge yourselves and Mercedes or is it always likely to take time?

I think it's a loss of energy to be worrying about other people's issues. All my focus is sorting our issues out. We do the best we can and the great thing about this sport is every two weeks you know whether it is good enough or not. We've got confidence in ourselves, we've got confidence in Renault that they will address the issues that they've experienced this year and I think that rather than worrying about others we're better focusing on our own issues and trying to catch the Mercedes.

 

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