Martin Brundle Q&A: Gauging the mood at Red Bull
The Sky Sports F1 commentator on RB9, Webber, Vettel and more
By James Galloway. Last Updated: 04/02/13 12:10pm
Having compered the glitzy launch of the car that will defend both World Championship titles in 2013 at Red Bull's Milton Keynes headquarters, Martin was ideally placed to assess both the RB9 and general mood at the team...
It's been said that the Red Bull RB9 was the car everyone in F1 had been waiting to see, so now we've seen it launched, what's your first impression of it?
MB: "I think if you're a casual viewer you would struggle to know the difference. It's a slightly different colour with Infiniti much more prominent on it and you can see some detail changes around the nose. Clearly they will have changed quite a lot underneath and the car's not going to really have a lot of its important goodies on it here because they don't want anybody else to steal a march on them. So you're not really seeing the final article.
"But I think Adrian [Newey] made a very important point on stage. A few years ago, even as recently as 2009 with the Brawn, if you started the year with a dominant car you were guaranteed to win the championship - and he said that's not the case anymore. It's now about your rate of development and not just how good your package is initially.
"Obviously it helps if you've got a great car and you develop it well, but it's the law of diminishing returns in the end for Red Bull. They've got a car that was so fast at the end of the year, where do you go in such a static regulation situation? Where do you go to find the improvements? If you're a second off the pace you've got some low-hanging fruit, as Ross Brawn would call it.
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"So it doesn't look as if they've changed as much as McLaren - maybe they didn't have to."
Adrian said he thought that from what he had seen so far, the new cars from Lotus, McLaren and Ferrari also all looked fairly evolutionary. Is that your take as well because the latter two certainly looked different to 2012..?
MB: "Yeah, they do. The Ferrari and the McLaren look significantly different don't they, they've got different suspension systems and generally look like they've gone a bit further - there's no doubt about that.
"But it's which bits that work, isn't it? That's all that matters and what the stopwatch says and how much confidence the drivers have got and we know that as soon as they hit the track. Adrian's quite pragmatic and practical. Like with the vanity panel at the front, which is such a tiny thing, it still looks like it's got a stepped nose on it but he's like 'well, that's all I needed. There's no point going any further than that because there's more weight', even if it's only a few grammes.
"So it's not been dressed up to be cosmetically beautiful. But it will be interesting to see what's on the car as the tests progress, then at the first race and then see where they go.
"But he's absolutely right - those who think they've got a chance to win the championship at mid-season will just stay on it, and the others with this massive change for 2014 will be out of it and just focused on that new car."
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Christian Horner has spoken a lot over the winter, and again at the launch, about the continuity factor at Red Bull heading into 2013. With so many changes going on at McLaren and Mercedes for example, how big an ace card might that stability prove to be for them?
MB: "It does help, even if it's just that the size of your drivers stays the same, so they know how to fit Mark Webber in the car and they know what Sebastian likes. You understand the strengths and weaknesses of each person in your team and you start maximising the strengths and minimising the weaknesses.
"There's also a chemistry in a group of determined, competitive people which is really hard to create. Think of it like a big flywheel; you get momentum in the flywheel and when the flywheel's spinning you just move on and when the flywheel starts to slow down it's really hard to stop it and you see people falling off the curve. So if you've got continuity I think it really helps keeping that flywheel turning. People understand where they fit into the system, the politics around it and if you suddenly introduce a new key person into a team like that, they're just human beings at the end of the day, and everybody's slightly off balance and wondering where they fit. It's like putting a wedge in there if you're not careful.
"So I think what Christian is trying to do there is two things: remind everybody he's pleased with his people and stick the boot into the other teams. The turmoil that's going on at the moment involves McLaren, Lotus and, particularly, Mercedes-Benz so it destabilises all of them."
One cloud over Red Bull in recent weeks, however, has been Helmut Marko's criticisms of Mark Webber. How big a potential problem is that inside the team?
MB: "I don't think that's a big problem for Mark. It doesn't help, and it will annoy him because he keeps getting asked the question, but I think he's long worked out where he stands in the pecking order with Helmut Marko. So there are no surprises there for him.
"I think what will bug Mark more is, and I was thinking about this the other day - I was up against Schumacher and Hakkinen, and it's hard. It's really hard because they're good. And they're good all day and every day. One thing is to cope with that but I wasn't in a championship-winning car at any time. But he's been in a team where a driver in the team has won the last three World Championships, and that's his team-mate.
Red Bull unveil 2013 car
"So that's doubly difficult to cope with. One thing is your team-mate beating you, the other is when you're within touching distance of that goal and your team-mate nicked it all three times - although he didn't even nick it really, he sort of carried it away comprehensively.
"So that's what will be on Mark's mind, trying to stop that."
And, finally, a word on Sebastian. At 25 he's already achieved what most people won't in a career but there are still a few doubters out there who say he's still not on Alonso or Hamilton's level. Does he really still have something to prove in 2013?
MB: "Not in my eyes, but in some people's eyes he has.
"What struck me today was the calm, confident maturity of it all. There wasn't an element of 'we've all been here before, we've all done this before, just get me out of here'. There wasn't any arrogance or over-confidence; they know there's a big reset button been hit, it's a new season and the target is on their back.
"They just struck me as very calm, relaxed and confident in a good way."