Q and A with Christian Horner With half the season now completed, Red Bull Racing’s Team Principal Christian Horner has assessed the year to date, namely being that with a total of six points after nine events, their goals have not been achieved. However, a lot of their reliability issues seem to stem from the gearbox, however as Horner explained, it is not so much the gearbox that is the issue but other factors relating to it. With that said, the Milton Keynes based squad is looking forward to a more competitive second half of the year, starting with this weekend’s European Grand Prix..
A fifth place for Coulthard in Spain, seventh spot for Webber in the US, 6 points; it’s not really where you want to be?
Looking back at the last few races, our performance has not matched our expectations. The RB3 has shown genuine pace, for example in both Monaco and then in Canada, where Mark qualified on the third row in sixth place. Both cars qualified in the top ten on the grid in Monaco, only for David to have his time removed for having impeded Kovalainen. David had a competitive race in Barcelona finishing fifth and Mark got his first points of the season in Indy after a solid run to seventh. These performances have shown the potential of the car, which has been marred by a depressingly high number of retirements.
On paper at least, your performance seems to have actually got worse in the past two races. Why is that?
Our home grand prix was frustrating. It seems that Silverstone and Red Bull Racing has never been a marriage made in heaven. We are in an extremely competitive part of the pack. Having qualified in the top 10 in the first seven races, we missed getting into the top 10 at Silverstone by less than 0.1 seconds, and it has become clear that notably Renault, Toyota and Honda, have made a step forward. At the moment, three tenths of a second puts you either at the front or the back of a group consisting of Renault, Honda, Toyota, Williams and ourselves.
Can we expect something better at the Nurburgring?
We have some developments that we tested in Spa last week and a significant upgrade coming for Turkey, with a few new elements on the car next weekend at the Nurburgring, as we try to get the most out of RB3 and try and get back to the front of that group again. I think it’s going to be very tight all through the rest of the season as it is just so competitive in that group at the moment. Of course, it’s not just down to us, as those other teams are also pushing their development forward.
Most of the retirements appear to be gearbox related. What’s going on there?
Mechanically, the gearbox itself is fundamentally okay and the problems have stemmed from areas around it. Unfortunately, it has not been a case of dealing with just one issue to fix this problem. There have been several factors contributing to its lack of reliability this year. Every aspect of the gearbox has been reviewed and we are aware of the need to get on top of it quickly. For example, Mark’s failure at Silverstone had never been seen before. It’s frustrating when something like that comes along and bites you but we need to pre-empt these issues and ensure we have a reliable transmission for the second half of the year.
Is it all down to the use of the seamless shift?
Not entirely and, as I said before, we need to run this aggressive development strategy if we want to be competitive at the highest level. The seamless shift is a very fast shift and its timing needs to be absolutely accurate.
But can we look forward to a brighter, more reliable, future?
Yes! It might be something of an excuse but it’s one with a major element of truth that we are working with a new engine partner and have a new electronics package this year. Next year will be the first time in the short history of our team that we will have continuity of engine supply for more than one season and I expect that to be of tremendous benefit. We can all see the car’s potential and our philosophy about going racing has changed here in that we are developing the car aggressively and that has required Herculean efforts from all areas of the company. The commitment demonstrated by everyone in the team has been hugely impressive. We don’t have much to show for it at the moment, but with sustained effort and commitment, results will follow.
Finally, your announcement at the British Grand Prix that David Coulthard will be with you in 2008 means your next year’s driver line-up is already decided. Why did you make your choice relatively early in the year?
We have committed to David and Mark for a further season for several reasons. They are two of the most dedicated and professional drivers in the pit lane, they work well together and bring a wealth of experience, those qualities cannot be underestimated. They are evenly matched in terms of pace and performance and with the benefit of continuity, not just with the drivers, but also with our engine partner, Renault, can only see us progress in the future.