Features - Interview
SEPTEMBER 13, 2010
Christian Horner looks back on Monza
Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner admitted before the weekend that the team viewed Monza as its weakest remaining circuit on the 2010 F1 calendar. And so, with Sebastian Vettel fourth in the Italian GP and Mark Webber sixth, he was able to look back on a final race of the European season in which Red Bull unexpectedly outscored major championship rivals McLaren.
Q: What happened to Mark at the start?
He didn't have a great start and if you look at the replay both our drivers got very deep into Turn 1 and both lost a lot of momentum on the exit of the first chicane. Both lost positions to Kubica, Hulkenberg and Rosberg, and Schumacher also passed Mark at that point.
Q: The starts were not good again. Is that a car thing or a driver thing, and how do you go about correcting it?
We need to look at it quite carefully because our starts at the beginning of the year were excellent but over the last couple of races we've lost a bit of performance on the startline. Whether it's an effect of low downforce is something that we need to try and understand.
Q: When Vettel had his problem on lap 20, how long before you knew it wasn't a race-ending one?
As soon as he came on the radio and said 'loss of power,' you're thinking engine failure but we couldn't see anything in the data and then it cleared itself. The assumption at that stage was either perhaps a visor strip in the airbox or, after a quick post mortem, it looks like maybe the brakes could have bound momentarily after Sebastian ran a kerb. We won't know until we conduct a proper post mortem.
Q: Was there any evidence of further problems on the telemetry?
No, it just cleared up. We could see a brake pressure spike, which is why there is an investigation going on into the braking system.
Q: How difficult was it to decide when to stop because each group didn't have enough margin to the group behind to make a pit stop?
It was very difficult. Obviously with Mark we tried to achieve the undercut and got him ahead of Kubica but we just missed out on Hulkenberg and that was a vital moment in his race because it cost him a large amount of time. And with Sebastian we could see that he was comfortable on the soft tyre and, having navigated the traffic, we knew that Rosberg and the cars behind had to go through that traffic so we had nothing to lose at that stage by leaving him out until the very last moment.
Q: Early on you told Mark to look after the tyres for a long stint, but did you then react to Kubica setting a sector three best on his out lap on primes?
Everybody left their stop very late because the gaps weren't opening up and the option tyre was hanging on. As soon as Kubica set that purple sector on the prime tyre it was a fairly good indication that the prime didn't look a bad tyre and then you risked being passed by cars behind. At that stage, with the undercut, we managed to get him past Kubica and just, just missed Hulkenberg. That cost him quite a bit of time despite Nico going off the track three or four times. The stewards, I believe, had a look at it but didn't feel he'd taken a huge advantage although it did seem a bit frustrating from where we were sitting, for sure.
Q: What were the predictions after Friday about how long the sort tyre would last?
We were thinking lap 15 or 16, so to do 52 laps on them... I think Sebastian could have driven home on them.
Q: Could you have changed in the pitlane on the last lap and then just driven past the line in the pits?
No, you have to exit the pitlane, so we took it as long as we could and, strategically, it was the right thing to do. Rosberg lost a lot of time on his last lap, which I think must have been traffic, and with our fastest pit stop of the year, which was a great performance by the guys under a lot of pressure, got Seb out comfortably ahead of Rosberg.
Q: Did you look at that strategy for Mark?
We looked at it but there was a lot more risk involved in it and Mark being in the lead between the two of them and given his championship position, we felt that the undercut was likely to be the stronger strategy. Indeed, it got him past Kubica and it very nearly got him ahead of Hulkenberg. Has that happened I'm sure he would have passed Rosberg.
Q: You mentioned the fast pit stop for Sebastian. How quick was it?
It was certainly sub 3s.
Q: Were those finishing positions better than you hoped for?
Having come around the first lap seventh and ninth, absolutely. I think it was a great team performance on a track we knew before coming here was going to be about trying to make the best of it. After the first lap we managed to do that. I'm happy with the job that the team and drivers have done.
Q: Were you impressed with the spirit of Mark's drive because there were some brave moves for someone involved in the title fight?
Mark drove a blinding race it's just a shame he lost so much time behind Hulkenberg because his passes on Schumacher and in the end on Hulkenberg, were terrific. He was really fired up and if he hadn't lost all that time I'm sure he would have achieved a better result that sixth.
Q: What did you feel when he came around behind Schumacher on the first lap?
I thought it was going to be a long old afternoon! But to leave Monza having, albeit marginally, extended our lead in the constructors' championship and for Mark to have regained the lead in the drivers' championship, I think we would definitely have taken that before the weekend.
Q: What was the feeling when you saw Hamilton's mistake?
You never like to see a competitor retire but I don't think there were too many tears in the Red Bull garage!
Q: Do you feel the momentum has swung back to you heading for the final tracks?
I think Monza represented our biggest challenge and the fact that we managed to outscore McLaren is massively positive. We know there's tracks that should suit us and tracks that will be a bit closer between the two teams, but hopefully there won't be the offset that we expected to see here this weekend.
Q: What's Mark's reaction: is he happy with that or frustrated?
He's a combination of both. He's frustrated that he didn't get more out of the race, particularly by losing so much time behind Hulkenberg. He was quite vocal on the radio about the time loss but looking at the championship points table on the way home, I think he will have felt better. Closing the European season in the lead is a strong performance from him.