Horner hails Vettel focus
Team boss says World Champion drove a "very impressive race"
By Mike Wise in Singapore. Last Updated: September 23, 2012 9:58pm
Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner said that Sebastian Vettel delivered when it mattered to claim a victory in the Singapore Grand Prix that gives his title defence vital momentum.
Vettel claimed his second victory of the season at the Marina Bay Street Circuit after race leader Lewis Hamilton retired with a gearbox failure on lap 23 of a race that ran to its two-hour maximum.
As a result, Vettel jumps back up to second place in the Drivers' Championship, 29 points behind Fernando Alonso, who finished third in the night race for Ferrari.
"I've never seen him as focused going into a grand prix as he was this evening. He executed a very, very impressive race today," Horner said. "As for the Championship, it's wide open. It's just annoying that Fernando keeps popping up on the podium at the end of a grand prix."
Although there was an element of good fortune in the result, Horner reckoned that his driver would have been able to keep pace with Hamilton had the latter's McLaren kept running.
He said Vettel got stronger as the race developed, having switched from the supersoft tyre on which he struggled during qualifying.
Fastest thoughout practice, Vettel nevertheless qualified third behind Hamilton and Pastor Maldonado - Horner admitting that Red Bull are still at a loss to explain his Q3 performance.
Vettel made two pit stops, with the race's two safety car interventions crucially helping him eke out his tyres.
"It was shaping up quite nicely on the soft tyre. Sebastian looked a lot more comfortable than he had done on the supersoft, so at that stage of the race it wasn't certain whether it was going to be a two or a three stop, we were considering both options," Horner said.
"And then Lewis's problem seemed to be quite sudden. Sebastian suddenly reported that a lot of gearbox oil came out.
"Nonetheless it was a great performance from Sebastian. It was a timely win for him and a very, very strong performance. It was then a matter of managing the race and to the end and covering the other runners."
In an incident-packed race, one which attracted the attention of stewards came prior to the first safety car restart.
Second-place finisher Jenson Button almost drove into the back of Vettel, although it was confirmed after the race that no action would be taken.
Speaking before a decision had been reached, Horner said Vettel was within his rights to back the field up as the race leader is allowed to dictate the pace - a view supported by the stewards in the event.
"I was concerned that Jenson nearly drove up the back of him. It seemed to be in the middle of the corner and it looked like Jenson misjudged it completely. I would be amazed if there were any ramifications from that," Horner said.
Although McLaren, Red Bull's nearest challengers in the Constructors' battle, have won three of the last four races, Horner also thinks his outfit can put up more of a fight over the balance of the season.
"They've made good progress since Hockenheim really. They've brought some upgrades that seem to have worked well for them. We've got some good stuff in the pipeline, we've been very competitive all weekend here, every session bar one we were the quickest - except for the crucial one in final qualifying," he added.
"We've got some tracks coming up that will hopefully play to the characteristics of our car. We knew the last two races would be tough, we still managed to get a second place in Spa and it was disappointing the DNF in Monza.
"Hopefully there's some venues coming up that will play a bit more to our strengths."