Sky Sports Exclusive: Christian Horner Q&A
Last Updated: 27/11/12 4:46pm
Vettel's toughest test
Following the team's third successive double title success, the Red Bull boss talks to Sky Sports News' Craig Slater about 2012, Sebastian Vettel and what the future might hold for the World Champion, the team and himself...
It was a hugely exciting race and a fitting finale to a great season, but it looked emotionally draining. Have you recovered from it yet?
Christian Horner: "It was a massively stressful race. I think we always knew that this championship was going to go down to the wire but I don't think anyone could have predicted a race like we saw on Sunday. It had everything in it, from the drama of being taken out on the first lap, to the comeback, to the weather, to the radio not working. It was as stressful a race as I can ever remember watching or certainly being involved in."
At the end of it, Sebastian Vettel is only the third man after Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher to win a third successive World Championship. Have his performances of the season perhaps been in races he hasn't won?
CH: "Absolutely. Sebastian has fought so hard for this championship and I think that, of the three, this has been by far the hardest.
"We haven't had a car advantage throughout this year and if you go back to the first race of the season at Australia, he fought on every lap to be on the podium. There have been other races later in the year when he has put in phenomenal drives that have largely gone unnoticed - the fourth positions, the fifth positions - and then, as we have managed to chip away at the performance, he has capitalised on that. Putting that run of four successive race wins at the fly-aways from Singapore through to India was a hugely impressive performance. To come back from being forty points behind, it's been quite remarkable to see what he has achieved."
And if there was a clincher, was it coming from the pitlane to the podium in Abu Dhabi?
CH: "I think that was a crucial race. Seb had qualified third and was looking in pretty decent shape for that race and then he had to go to the back of the grid and we elected to start him from the pitlane. We were hoping for a top-ten finish to limit the damage to ideally still leave Abu Dhabi with a points lead. We never dreamt he would be on the podium. Again, he put in a phenomenal drive and I think what he has demonstrated more than anything else this year is that his race craft and his ability to go through a field is second to none."
We always have this debate in Formula 1 about who is the number one in the sport and who is 'the man' as it were. You said to Sebastian at the end of the race 'you are the man'. Maybe one or two still thought that, even with his championships, Fernando Alonso was that man, but do you now think that Sebastian has that mantle?
CH: "Well he is a three-time World Champion and has won successive World Championships. He has raced in 101 races and won 26 of them, he has been on the podium more than 40 times which is almost in fifty per cent of the races he has raced in, and he has 34 pole positions. I think those statistics, plus the way he conducts himself, just absolutely puts him amongst the greats.
"F1 at the moment is going through a halcyon period. Fernando Alonso is a wonderful, massively-gifted driver, as is Lewis Hamilton, and then you have the likes of Jenson Button, Kimi Raikkonen, who has come back this year, and of course Mark Webber, so it's a halcyon period for F1 and to succeed, and achieve the level of success that he has, is quite remarkable, especially as he is only just 25 years of age."
There are those who will try to qualify his success and perhaps say that he had a faster car... and Ferrari are saying that they only competed in eighteen races out of the twenty. But you would have a response to that, wouldn't you?
CH: "Well, you look at a season as twenty races and let's not forget that Sebastian was leading in Valencia when the alternator expired and that gifted Fernando a win at home that he wouldn't have otherwise had and at Monza he was set for fourth or fifth before suffering the same failure. These things tend to even themselves out over the course of a season and Sebastian has had as much bad luck, and probably more, than Fernando because he has had those mechanical issues to deal with. But that's the way it goes and, as I say, it tends to even itself out over a season.
"It's been a fantastic season for F1. It's been stressful, it's been intense and it's been a herculean effort from every member within our team to retain both trophies at Milton Keynes."
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Sebastian was congratulated at the end of the race by Michael Schumacher. In a sense, is he racing against the likes of Schumacher and Fangio now and would you say that if you can keep this team together at Red Bull then you could deliver things on a parallel with what Schumacher has achieved in the past?
CH: "Well, to achieve a triple double World Championship - in 2010, in 2011 and in 2012 to win both the Constructors' and the Drivers' World Championship - is something that very few others have achieved and is testimony to our team.
"The team is working fantastically well, we have some great members of the team with great technical leadership from Adrian Newey, but it has to flow through the whole organisation and I think what we have achieved with sustained success is qute phenomenal.
"Yet what makes it all the more remarkable is the level of our opponents, they are great teams - Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes-Benz. These are big teams we are going up against. We are taking nothing for granted and we have no idea what 2013 might hold. For now, we are going to savour this moment but obviously very quickly focus does change to 2013 and with continuity hopefully we can have a competitive year and build on from the lessons of 2012 through into 2013. But, for now, we are going to take this moment and enjoy it."
And for yourself, as the Team Principal of a team with six championships in three years, is your future still here at Red Bull, are your ambitions being fulfilled and are you happy where you are?
CH: "Absolutely. I joined the team from the beginning and it's been a phenomenal journey. It's the most incredible thing to be sitting here having achieved six World Championships in three years and that is all down to working as a team, working as a group, getting the most out of the drivers and having a very special talent in Sebastian who has delivered in the Drivers' World Championship.
"But there's an awful lot more we want to achieve. This is only our eighth season in F1 and we want to go on and achieve more. There is a great motivation and determination within the team to keep this momentum going into the future."