Christian Horner Q&A: The Red Bull boss reflects on the Indian GP and another title
Team Principal also discusses Mark Webber's issues
By William Esler
Last Updated: 28/10/13 1:52pm
There has been an inevitability about this Championship for some time, but how does this one feel? Sebastian seems very emotional.
Christian Horner: "Sebastian is very emotional and I am sure every member of the team is emotional. The effort that has gone into this campaign has been huge, because not only has it been this year, but we have also had to design and develop a car for next year as well.
"When you win a Championship for the first time the pressure is then to defend it - we defended it and then we retained it - and having achieved the triple you think 'okay, it doesn't get better than that,' and the likelihood of doing a quadruple double just seems to be statistically unlikely if nothing else. But the passion, the determination, the dedication within the whole team and of course the way that Sebastian has delivered this year has been phenomenal."
How nervous were those last few laps and were you worried about the alternator issues that struck Mark hitting Seb? Did he have any issues?
CH: "Well of course - after the failure on Mark's car which was so sudden, there is no reason to suspect it won't happen on the other car. So immediately we tried to reduce the draw on the alternator as much as possible which included even turning off the KERS system in the end.
"There was then a problem with the sensor on the alternator which gave us even more heart in mouth moments and all the while Sebastian is lighting up the timing screens with purple sectors. So there were some heart-stopping moments in there, but thankfully the car got to the end and Sebastian did what he needed to, it was just tremendously cruel luck not to have Mark up there as well."
Is there any strange issue why Mark might get hit more by these issues? Is it because he is taller in the car and there is less cooling for example?
CH: "I think if you look at the statistics of the time the two drivers have been in the car together, they have had an equal number of issues and failures - I mean look at the KERS issue on Seb's car in qualifying in Japan just a couple of weeks ago.
"So there is no reason to it, it was just tremendously bad luck for Mark today and obviously until Renault get the engine back it is impossible to know what has caused it."
No evidence of him being hard on the machinery?
CH: "I don't think so. Mark was driving a strong race today and for sure he would have been second and it is our objective to have both cars there at the finish. It was desperately disappointing to see a DNF for Mark."
What was the thinking behind putting Mark on the softs in the middle stint rather than keeping them until the end?
CH: "We looked at it before the race because basically we managed to have a window of a free stop and the exposure with Mark's strategy was that if there was a safety car at the end, there was a huge risk that if it came out with 15 laps to go, you have to take it and put the tyre and those tyres wouldn't do that amount of time.
"So it was the most risk-free way of running the race and giving him three or four hard laps on the new option tyre - go for it in clean air - then get back onto the hard tyre. That was the logic behind it."
Did you always plan to stop after just two laps with Vettel or was it when you saw Alonso had the problem?
CH: "No, we always planned to stop after two laps."
Just to be clear was there an alternator problem with Seb's car or was it precautionary?
CH: "It was precautionary - we had a bit of noise on a sensor that was giving us some spurious readings that were only adding to the tension on the pitwall.
"Thankfully it was only a sensor problem and as a precaution we started shutting things down to reduce the draw on the alternator and again Sebastian managed that incredibly well."
Sebastian has won four titles now and made no mistakes this year. Does he still have any weak points?
CH: "I think Sebastian has grown this year. The way he has driven and the level, it has been his best ever year and he has raised the bar continually.
"The exciting thing about him is that he is still only 26, he has still only done 117 grands prix, he's won 36 of them now and he is a four-time World Champion. He doesn't win by mistake, he hasn't achieved these results by accident, he has achieved them by having an enormous about of natural ability, having an enormous amount of commitment, a fantastic work ethic where he continuously looks at his own performances and critics himself and he encourages and inspires the people around him."
Do you think he will go on to win more titles than Michael Schumacher now?
CH: "I think that is impossible to predict. At this stage of his career his win record is quite incredible, but there are so many things in this sport that determine that. It depends in being in the right machinery as well, but from a skill point of view there is absolutely no reason why not."
Were you surprised at how quickly he made up ground after his first-stop? He was flying through the traffic.
CH: "Well Sebastian knew that the stop was going to be aggressive and he would come out at the back of the field and he would have to go through the traffic and he would have to be decisive and quick in the way that he did that.
"He knew he needed to keep the gap to the lead car to less than 22 seconds and his passing and the way he executed that was quite phenomenal - he actually gained on the leader whilst going through the traffic which was quite remarkable. And then of course as the strategy started to unfold, he got himself back into the lead and managed the race extremely well from there."
It is clear Adrian Newey has played a key part in driving Red Bull forward and providing some excellent machinery, but do you think without Sebastian Vettel you would have won four consecutive championship doubles?
CH: "I think it is all about the team. You need a great team and you need great drivers and for sure without Sebastian we wouldn't have won four consecutive World Championships.
"He is now by right one of the all-time greats, he joins a select few. But it needs everything to work in harmony - you can have the best driver in the world, or the best designer in the world, but if you don't have the right team and work as a team, it will never work."
The other drivers to win four world titles have all done so with different teams. Do you worry that he might get itchy feet and want to prove himself by winning a title at another team?
CH: "I don't. I think every driver in the pitlane would like to be in one of our cars at the moment. Sebastian enjoys driving for the team, he has grown up within the team, he is very much part of the team, why would he want to be anywhere else?"
To get that extra bit of history...
CH: "I think he is focussed on winning and whether that colour is blue, red or silver, he has a tie to this team, he has had all of his success in cars designed in Milton Keynes, he has been a member of the Red Bull junior driver programme - Dietrich Mateschitz has backed him since he was 13 or 14 years of age - and of course there are no guarantees, but it is not about contracts or anything like that, it is about relationships and there is total trust in Sebastian from the team and there is total trust from Sebastian in the team."
When Ferrari achieved their era of dominance like you have now it was with exclusive tyre contracts and unlimited testing. Now things are tighter and more restricted and more things are equal are your achievements greater than what Ferrari did?
CH: "I think it is always difficult to compare - you can only race against and compete against the rules that exist. The rules are different now and arguably they are more fair in that everyone has the same tyre and everyone has the same amount of funding and everyone has the same amount of engines available to them for example, so I think the level at which the team has performed and has continued to perform over a sustained period - when Red Bull first started winning it was because it was a flash in the pan, a change of regulations - we have demonstrated through these last four years that it wasn't a lucky punch, it has been down to the consistent hard work and skilled work throughout the entire team, throughout all the departments. There are 22 departments that make up our grand prix team and they have given their all to achieve these results."
Do you care about winning the last three?
CH: "Absolutely, absolutely yes. There are three to go and it is like three FA Cup finals. We are going to go and give it everything all the way to the last race."
Are you going to miss the Buddh International Circuit next year?
CH: "Well seeing as no-one else has won the Indian Grand Prix, we would like it to be the only race on the calendar for several years to come!
"The reception we get in India is fantastic, the track is a great layout, the enthusiasm of the fans is incredible and obviously the success rate - we are fortunate to have won all three Indian GPs - so it holds very, very fond memories for us, especially to have achieved this World Championship here."