Features - Interview
APRIL 10, 2011
BY TONY DODGINS
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner gave his thoughts on his team's victory in the Malaysian Grand Prix and a race which saw the RB7s use KERS selectively on race winner Vettel's car, and not at all on Mark Webber's.
Q: So, a straightforward lights to flag victory?
It was a great performance by Sebastian again today. He had a great start, led into the first corner and then his pace was excellent. He was able to build a lead that gave us options, so we then responded to the cars behind us and had the option of a three or four-stop race. In the end we didn't need to do a four stop. He brought the car home with a very mature, level-headed drive.
Q: What about Mark's race?
He was unlucky at the start because he had the worst of all worlds. He had a poor start and the KERS went into a safe mode. It was an electrical issue that we actually haven't seen before, so he had the combination of a bad start and no KERS at the second longest run to the first corner, then not a great first lap when he lost another place to Kobayashi. I think he was actually 10th at the end of the first lap so we decided to go aggressive with him and opted for the four-stop strategy. He needed to make it work and drove a great recovery. A combination of strategy and his performance so very nearly got him onto the podium. Again, I can't take my hat off to the pit crew enough today. They produced one stop that was sub three seconds. In fact, I think both Seb's last stop and Mark's second one were sub 3s. So seven stops, all tremendously quick, in 35 degree heat.
Q: Is Sebastian unstoppable at the moment?
He's in great form and I think was the coolest man in Malaysia today. Certainly on the pit wall we were getting a bit hot but whenever you spoke with him it all sounded totally under control and pretty relaxed. He's in a really good place, his confidence is high and he's really delivering. He's just growing in experience. It was a very mature drive. It's easy to forget he's still only 23 years of age.
Q: He sounded a bit excited when he was asking about KERS. Was that a bit stressful for him?
I think there was a confusing message to him and he wanted clarification on it. The system worked well today and it's testimony to the hard work in Milton Keynes. Unfortunately on Mark's car there was the electrical issue that denied him the use of it, so we've got a week to get on top of that but we've learned a lot from today's race.
Q: So you didn't have KERS with Seb from lap 30 on?
We just chose not to use it.
Q: Was there a problem with it?
No problem at all with Seb's KERS.
Q: So you beat the rest without KERS -- a bit worrying for them?
I think the tyres become the biggest performance differentiator with a system that is still quite immature compared to some of our rivals. We just didn't want to take too many risks in arguably one of the harshest environments for it. We just became a little bit conservative in our usage.
Q: So extending tyre life drives you not to use KERS rather than issues with it?
We adopted a slightly different approach after Melbourne, put a lot of focus into the race and I think it paid off today. It possibly may have cost us a bit of time in qualifying but I think the approach to the race was absolutely right.
Q: Is that why the qualifying gap at the front was closer than Australia?
It's very difficult to quantify but certainly we put a lot of preparation into the race today and it paid dividends.
Q: What did you think of the race in terms of the show “ a bit complicated?
It's certainly complicated on the pit wall! It would be an air traffic controller's nightmare if you were tuned into the strategy channel because you are trying to look at where you are going to emerge, what the degradation is, what tyre you should be using, and with two cars. The work rate is colossal. It does add an exciting dimension to the race and I think it added an element that was much more strategic. You could see it worked out for some and not for others.
Q: Presumably you do it on the hoof without computer programmes yet?
You have to be flexible. We didn't know if it was going to be a three, four or five stop to be honest with you. I think you have the flexibility to change. I don't know how it looked but it was pretty intense from start to finish for us!
Q: Is there a worry it can get too confusing for people watching at home on TV?
I'm probably not the right person to comment because you get so immersed in your own race. I'd have to watch a re-run to see how it looked. But you've got people racing each other, Alonso and Hamilton going wheel to wheel, Mark having a bad first lap and coming back through, so I think that's got to be a positive for F1 in what could otherwise have been a very static race. I think it will take a few races for a pattern to emerge.
Q: Does it become difficult for Mark to watch his team mate sail away into the sunset with two wins out of two?
Mark's old enough and¦ I was going to say ugly enough, but he's not!¦ to know how long the season is and that these points are invaluable. In difficult weekends he's picked up a fifth and a fourth and they will all count at the end of the year. It was a great drive from him today.
Q: How will your KERS situation be in China?
Obviously we've got a huge amount of data today and we'll learn more before next week and plan to build on the experience we've had here.
Q: Is KERS your chief concern?
No. McLaren and Ferrari are our chief concerns! You can see that the performance can ebb and flow and Ferrari appeared to be having a very strong race today.