Q&A: Red Bull's Christian Horner and Adrian Newey
Red Bull Racing has reached the mid-point of the season in fine form, with consecutive one-two finishes in the British and German Grands Prix. Red Bull Racing Team Principal, Christian Horner and Red Bull Technology Chief Technical Officer, Adrian Newey explain the groundwork that went into producing these results. The team currently lies second in both the Constructors' and Drivers' Championships.
Q: As we go into the second half of the season are the pressures you now have to deal with different to those of last year, or even at the start of this season?
Christian Horner, Red Bull-Renault (Team Principal): The rewards on track are different, but the pressures are the same. We are working as hard as possible to get as much performance as possible, as quickly as we can. Everyone at the factory has a spring in their step at the moment, even if the pace of development required to meet this year's major regulation change has been relentless. There are a lot of unsung heroes at the factory, putting in superhuman efforts and hours to get the components on the car.
Q: How has the operation at Milton Keynes changed, to produce the performances we have seen so far this season?
CH: There were already signs of a change last year, when RB4 delivered reasonable performance in the first half of the season, while in the second half Red Bull Technology had good results with Toro Rosso, in what was essentially an identical car. The design group has really gelled and is working cohesively and the integration across the whole group, R&D and the production side, is working very well. This is down to stability and continuity in what is still a relatively young team.
Q: The race team at the track seems to be working well too and it features lots of new faces. What effect has that had on performance?
CH: The faces new to the race team are not new to the company, as they were all on the test team last year. It's a testimony to how strong the test team was that, when we conducted the difficult exercise over the winter when as all the other teams we had to make redundancies, we went through a scrupulously fair system to identify the best candidates for the roles we had available. The group of guys in the garage are brilliant. The camaraderie between the two car crews and the way they work for each other is fantastic; the team spirit is very strong this year.
Q: Does the team have any weak points?
CH: You can always do better. Putting aside our performance and two dominant one-two finishes in the last two races, the team's determination to continue to improve and not to take anything for granted is very important. There are no obvious weaknesses in our armory, but as a group we must continue to push ourselves in all areas all the time.
Q: Going back a few races, what do you remember about standing on an F1 podium for the first time after the win in China?
CH: It was a very proud moment representing Red Bull at the team's first win, having been here since the beginning. Looking down and seeing the faces of all the guys looking up at the podium and standing next to the two drivers who'd driven brilliantly is a moment I will certainly always remember. It was a great feeling, especially at the end of such a long race of almost two hours, held in atrocious conditions.
Q: At the start of the season, Mark Webber, partly because of his cycling accident, was being positioned as something of an underdog up against new boy Vettel. What do you think about that?
CH: Our drivers are both at the top of their game at different stages in their career and they are pushing one another very hard. I think we've got the best driver line-up in F1 at the moment. When I saw Mark in early January, he'd forgotten to mention he'd also broken his shoulder! He couldn't put any weight on his right leg and I remember thinking 'this is going to be interesting!' He was resolute in his determination to drive the new car at its launch. After he drove RB5 for the first time, there was a look of relief in his eyes, as I think he was unsure if he would still have the same feeling in his right foot and how he would cope with the bumps on track. From then on, there was never any doubt he was going to be fit for Melbourne. In typical Aussie fashion, he carried the injury without letting on about how much pain and discomfort he was feeling. He's had great support and his physios and trainers have done a great job. I think it's only now we are seeing Mark at the level of fitness he was at prior to his injury and his recent results show he is absolutely on the form of his life. Sebastian is undoubtedly a star in the making. He shows remarkable maturity, given his lack of experience. He is a prodigious talent who will continue to get better. The best is yet to come from him. Both men are being treated with total fairness within the team and are supplied with identical equipment.
Q: At what point will you have to think about team orders between the two drivers in terms of the championship?
CH: We will continue to support both drivers equally. There's only a point and a half between them, so obviously they are both in contention for the Drivers' Championship. There's a long way to go to catch up with Jenson Button. If and when we reach a point where there is a significant gap, or it becomes mathematically impossible for one of them to challenge for the Championship, then they are both team players and one of them will play a supporting role should it be required. Our intention is to see both of them catch the lead Brawn as quickly as possible.
Q: RB5 was good enough to give the Brawn a run for its money even before the scramble to produce a double diffuser. How much did the work involved in fitting a double diffuser to our car upset the planned development program?
Adrian Newey, Red Bull-Renault (Chief Technical Officer): It was a huge amount of work as the car wasn't designed to work with a double diffuser and, in particular, it wasn't an easy marriage with the pullrod rear suspension. We decided we didn't have the resources to redesign the gearbox and rear suspension to better suit the double diffuser concept, so we kept the existing mechanical package and adapt as best we could. The first attempt was our Monaco package, which was a small step that didn't work as well as we would have liked. The second step was then introduced for the British Grand Prix.
Q: Did this affect the overall development program of the car?
AN: It took up a lot of my time and during that intensive two month period I was less involved with the rest of the car than I would normally have been. But we were able to handle our usual development in parallel.
Q: Red Bull Racing and indeed all the other teams, have brought in new developments with no testing. Does this mean that testing has been something of a red herring over the past years or would this year's cars be much quicker if testing had continued as before?
AN: It's difficult to say. When you introduce something without testing, you are reliant on your research tools: wind tunnel testing primarily, CFD and simulation to a lesser extent. As we are now introducing new elements at race weekends, if we have stepped in the wrong direction by a small amount, it's hard to notice, as we are unable to do back-to-back testing to quite the same level as we used to. But we do use the Fridays of a grand prix as a test session, as well as for preparation for the rest of the weekend.
Q: Is tires the one area where you really feel the lack of testing, as we have seen some unusual situations on the tire side so far this year?
AN: Some of what we have seen with tires this season has been very circuit and temperature specific. If your tests are not at the circuits you race on, or at the temperatures you encounter at the race weekend, then the problems with the tires might not necessarily show up.
Q: Leaving aside the Brawns, who do you expect to mount a serious challenge over the next few races?
AN: I think anybody can. We saw McLaren and Renault make a big step forward at the Nurburgring and we ourselves made a step forward at Silverstone. As teams introduce new packages, it's possible for them to make a good step forward – that has been a trademark of the season so far and may well continue to be so for the rest of the year.
Q: At the moment, it seems likely that Red Bull Racing will have to persevere with development of this year's car right to the end of the season if it is in the fight for both titles. What effect will that have on the 2010 car?
AN: It's a problem we face every year. Last year, research carried out on RB4 for the balance of last season had no application to the 2009 car because of the regulation change. That is not the case this year; development parts we find for RB5 will be applied to RB6 and possibly even vice versa as we start to research RB6.
Q: Are you surprised to see where Red Bull Racing is now in the championship? Did you expect things to be going this well?
AN: We made reasonable progress through the last couple of years which, for Red Bull Technology, culminated in the win at Monza last year. Then, with the big change in regulations, we had the opportunity to do something new and different and possibly steal a march on more established competitors. Last year, we continued to develop RB4 and STR3 fairly aggressively right through the summer. Other teams abandoned their 08 car somewhat earlier. Given our resources, that did stretch us quite thin last summer. We managed it as best we could and split up our development teams. We were probably one of the latest starters on the 09 car. We managed to find a few novel features that have helped to make the car competitive and from then on it's been a case of developing it.
Q: On a personal note, you looked quite emotional standing on the Silverstone podium after the one-two finish in the British GP. How did that feel?
AN: To be honest, the three months leading up to Silverstone had been very hard work, as we developed the car to adapt it to the double diffuser. So to see that, as a package, make the difference at Silverstone was a great feeling. Source: Red Bull Racing