APRIL 16, 2012
Horner: It's going to be a fascinating championship
BY TONY DODGINS
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was left to reflect upon a split-strategy Chinese GP - in terms of both car configuration and tactical approach. Fourth and fifth places were the best that Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel could do.
Q: What are your thoughts?
We had a difficult qualifying day and then an even harder first lap. Sebastian said he was almost passed by a Caterham after Massa got out of shape and was hit it by one of the Williams. Mark lost places too and we went very aggressive, stopping him on lap 6.
With Seb we went the opposite route, pitting early for a two-stop and then doing a long middle stint. There wasn't much left of Seb's front left tyre for the last four or five laps but Mark was looking strong. He got a bit out of shape passing Kimi and that allowed Lewis past. Seb, without a DRS car ahead of him, was pretty easy to pick off on the straight.
When you're running second and fourth, ahead of Button with Seb and Hamilton with Mark, and there's five or six laps to go, to ultimately come out fourth and fifth is, on the face of it, disappointing. But when you look at where you came around on the first lap, we made the right strategic calls. We had good pit work, good pace in the race and so, all in all, far from disastrous.
Q: What are the priorities?
We just need to sort out qualifying because the strategy is tougher. You saw McLaren with Hamilton go from being in a strong position to being right amongst it with a three-stop. Suddenly you're racing Williams and Sauber and these cars, if they elect to two-stop, make the race a lot more complicated than we saw last year. If you're behind a Grosjean or Perez or a Williams two-stopping, those cars are going quickly. You won't just go straight through them like we saw last year.
Q: Were you surprised by the Mercedes pace?
Everybody thought Rosberg's tyre degradation was going to be high and they'd be in trouble doing a three-stop. But they got away looking like he's had the lowest degradation on a two-stop! So the theories and conjecture don't tie up with what's going on.
Q: What is it about the latest spec RB8 that Sebastian doesn't like?
Some characteristics that weren't particularly suited to his style of driving, which is to carry a lot of speed into the corner. The decision to come to China with two different cars was very much Adrian (Newey) -- a technical decision. We wanted to make sure we got a direction and a clear comparison. We've had that and it's been a really useful exercise. The drivers were happy to go the routes they did and we've got lots of information to settle on a future direction.
Q: You won't carry on with a split?
No. Ideally you want the best characteristics from both solutions.
Q: Might you split again in Bahrain?
We'll make a decision over the next couple of days.
Q: How long will it take to get a Mercedes-type DRS on the car?
It's not a given that for everybody it's bolt-on lap time.
Q: How different is Bahrain going to be?
We'll probably have 20C more track temperature to contend with and that's the great challenge at the moment. It's going to be a fascinating championship. I think it will ebb and flow through the year. The grid has really concertinaed. If you look at all the configurations of car that were in the top 10 in qualifying, there's no way they were within 3% of set-up or downforce configuration and yet they were within 3% of lap time. The biggest common denominator is getting the tyres to work. So congratulations to Nico Rosberg and Mercedes on their first win.