Christian Horner says Sebastian Vettel's Abu Dhabi drive proves he is a racer
Red Bull chief lavishes praise on the World Champion
By James Galloway. Last Updated: 04/11/12 9:39pm
Christian Horner believes Sebastian Vettel's "unbelievable" performance in the Abu Dhabi GP should have finally silenced the critics who suggest the German isn't a great racer.
After being excluded from Saturday's qualifying results for fuelling irregularities with his RB8 at the end of Q3, Horner had admitted to Sky Sports F1 prior to the race that Vettel was likely to face an uphill battle to even score points on Sunday given he was starting from the pitlane and the Yas Marina circuit hadn't been considered a great venue for overtaking.
However, during the course of a thrilling 55 laps, Vettel turned those expectations spectacularly on their head. The World Champion, through a combination of some incisive overtaking moves, timely safety cars and some undoubted good fortune, surged to third position at the chequered flag.
With his title rival Fernando Alonso finishing only one position higher in second place, it meant the Spaniard only took three points out of Vettel's title lead, meaning his advantage is ten points heading to the penultimate race in Austin.
Asked by Sky Sports F1 how highly he rated his star driver's performance, Horner said: "Unbelievable. To start in the pit lane, but not only that, he had to change wing - I think he had some damage on the first lap when he touched a Williams - and then behind the safety car there was more damage done to the wing.
"So to have to change that, to go to the back of the field again, and come all the way through...he just drove an unbelievable race tonight."
Vettel has been dogged by accusations over recent seasons that he lacks the kind of wheel-to-wheel racing instincts of some of his rivals but Horner believes the way the 25-year-old clawed his way back to the podium on Sunday firmly puts those theories to bed.
"Hats off to him today," Horner added. "That's one of the best drives I've seen him produce and any doubters that said he can't race, he's definitely proved them very wrong today."
Horner praised the team's response to the grid demotion as a whole and revealed that Vettel had actually told him in the hours before the race that he fancied his chances of making the podium.
"I think the team responded as they needed to after yesterday. We made set-up changes overnight, we started from the pit lane and we raced hard throughout the race," he added.
"Sebastian said when I went into his room and saw him earlier, he was playing some drums, and he said see you on the podium later. I thought he was just joking but he was determined he was going to be there and he made it happen today."
The Red Bull chief also admitted that the pit wall had toyed with the idea of not stopping Vettel for the second time when he had track position over Alonso but in the end realised the tyres wouldn't quite hold on.
Asked by Damon Hill if they could have squeezed out the required 42 laps on the soft tyre, Horner replied: "I don't think we could. We looked at it and we were thinking about it and it was very tempting.
"Sebastian was sort of challenging us on it as well but from the wear rates we had seen the tyres coming off the car already, we thought we're going to be ten laps shy with them.
"As soon as we passed Grosjean and were into a clear fourth place we thought, okay, 15 or 18 laps to go, get a new set of options on, we'll close down the gap to Jenson anyway.
"So we took that stop, we got ahead of Grosjean, and then the pace car came out and it took longer than I thought it might have done to get past Jenson. But it's not easy to overtake round here."