It's half-term for the world of F1: time for a "what do you think of it so far" report from Red Bull Racing's Team Principal, Chief Engineer and drivers. CHRISTIAN HORNER The first half of the season has gone pretty well for us. We have taken...
It's half-term for the world of F1: time for a "what do you think of it so far" report from Red Bull Racing's Team Principal, Chief Engineer and drivers.
The first half of the season has gone pretty well for us. We have taken a big step forward in reliability and our performance has also shown progress since 2007. So far, coming up to the British Grand Prix, we have had one hundred percent mechanical reliability in all the races, which is remarkable compared to last year. We have already scored as many points in a half season as we did in the entirety of 2007 and we have secured our first podium of the year as well as scoring in seven of the eight races to date. The only race where we failed to score was in Melbourne where both our drivers were eliminated through accidents. It's a positive start and we are on target to meet our objective of finishing the year in fourth spot in the Constructors', but there's still a long way to go. With that in mind, there are still developments due on the car to increase performance as we feel we can get closer to McLaren and BMW.
This year, everyone has worked very well as a team and we are beginning to see the true potential that exists within our group. As an independent team and many people seem to forget we are independent without the clout of a manufacturer behind it, I think we have exceeded expectations in many areas, but we won't be fully satisfied until we are winning races.
While pushing to maintain our fourth place in the Championship, we are also working on our 2009 programme and, as a smaller team, we have to be smart in the way we use our resources. All teams face this dilemma to some extent. The best form of defence is attack and that's what we'll continue to do for the rest of 2008. Within our technical group we have the capacity to develop the current car while looking at 2009 and Adrian Newey's primary focus is now the 2009 car. But he is still overseeing the development of RB4. It is a juggling act but one which we feel we can deal with. We just have to think smarter than the bigger teams we are fighting against, work hard and keep our head down.
Mark has driven fantastically well so far this year, in the points bar Melbourne and Canada where he had incidents that weren't his fault. He's in a very competitive part of the field racing against the likes of Fernando Alonso, Jarno Trulli and Nico Rosberg. He's done an excellent job and on three occasions Turkey, Monaco and France, we've got both cars into the top ten in qualifying. As for David, things had not gone his way until Montreal. He qualified in the top ten in fifty percent of the races but he's come home with three ninth place finishes which is the most frustrating position just outside the points. The Montreal podium was the highlight for both him and the team so far this year. With half the season still to go, it is imperative that we maintain our reliability and continue to develop the car at each race in order to achieve our target of fourth place in the Constructors' Championship.
Your primary judgement of your car's performance is relative to that of your opposition. At the start of the season, both drivers were happy with some aspects of the car and less impressed with other areas. In terms of our pace, we were comparable to our nearest opposition. Therefore it was reasonably encouraging as we saw no major flaws and reliability was good which meant we could do lots of miles which enabled us to run our development programme. We have had some strong qualifying and race performances from the car in the first half of the season so, overall, reasonably pleased would be the verdict.
We had one incident in the first grand prix which set us back slightly for the next couple of races, but we got on top of that. Of course, it was never part of our plan to have a big accident in the first race! But having fixed it we were confident to run the car in all situations from then on.
No car is perfect and some areas were clearly in need of development. Our two drivers commented on traction, possibly expecting more than the car could deliver. A lack of balance was another criticism and we worked on ironing out the extremes so that we could get a faster lap time by delivering more consistent performance. And we've been reasonably successful at that. The most obvious lack of performance is that we're not running at the pace of the fastest car! We are making progress in getting nearer to that goal.
In terms of tyre behaviour, the RB4 is working well. We made a significant step in understanding this aspect of performance in Bahrain and have continued to improve in this area race by race. In Canada, we were in very good shape as far as tyres were concerned which was actually quite surprising thus confirming that we have not experienced all the problems that other teams have had in this area.
We have had a few updates of varying magnitude through the first half of the year: we had a good step for Barcelona, but we have drip fed small changes into the car throughout the year which have helped us move forward rather than remain static. For the remainder of the season, we have more upgrades planned and it's a case of prioritising their introduction. We are now looking at finding better lap times, because the car is reasonably well balanced, so we have to pinpoint any remaining vices and work on those to improve our lap times. We will still have to develop this car, even though this is the time of year when the following year's car looms large.
Which upcoming tracks will suit us? Ask me at the end of the year. Seriously, the car can be made to perform competitively at most of the tracks as we have seen from the first half of the season. We have scored at nearly all races in the first half, so why shouldn't we continue to do that for the second half of the year, only higher up the order and picking up more points.
Currently, the season is going better than we could have expected after the start of the year when we had a lot of tough opposition down the pit lane. Those teams are still there, but the numbers never lie and at the moment, we are looking good to maintain fourth place in the Constructors' Championship. Touch wood, I've had a good run in terms of reliability and that's certainly helped. I think we have executed most of our weekends pretty well and there haven't been many races where we've had to dig out the hindsight goggles. In terms of qualifying and the race, it has generally gone well and certainly much better than last year. Not many teams have managed to get seven consecutive points scoring finishes. Okay, maybe we're not banging out podiums and race wins but we are doing everything that can be asked of us at the moment.
Personally, from the middle part of last year, I started to work well in terms of getting the most out of the car and understanding it and that has carried through to the present and I'm pretty happy with the way I've been driving. Having a reliable car has helped and it will be asking a lot to maintain one hundred percent reliability through to the end of the year, but I hope the bad race weekend stays away for as long as possible. I'm comfortable with RB4 and I feel I can put it on the limit at most venues, which is encouraging. I am trying to keep the errors to a minimum and that's been reflected in our points tally. Qualifying is more than ever this year proving crucial in setting yourself up for a good race as you really need to be in a strong position at the end of your first race stint. Therefore grid position is important and this year, the qualifying procedure is a lot easier as you get a few chances to nail that lap, so there are no excuses for not doing the job in qualifying. Apart from Melbourne, where I had a brake problem and Bahrain where I qualified eleventh, I've made it through to Q3 in every race. We've been on the bubble of not getting through on a couple of occasions, but thankfully it's always gone my way.
As for the rest of the season, it's not going to get any easier for us and we still have to deliver week in and week out. It's a cliche but I'll be taking every race as it comes. In terms of the opposition, Renault have definitely not performed to their maximum yet and we can expect strong opposition from them and from a few other drivers and teams that have maybe underperformed so far.
The first half of the season has been a mixed bag for the team mainly through my results, as Mark has had his best season to date. I had a couple of wobbles in qualifying earlier in the year and that has resulted in being on the wrong piece of race track at the wrong time and getting involved in incidents. The only weekend where I had an incident all by myself was in Monaco, but that was off the back of having no running on the Thursday because of reliability issues. Without trying to give the impression of "poor me" making excuses, I've definitely had the non-Red Bull end of the stick! But on the positive side, I've been in the top ten several times and I've had a podium finish in Canada. There have also been three ninth place finishes, which doesn't sound very sexy, but in all those races, I was less than ten seconds away from seventh, which shows just how competitive it is in that midfield. I am genuinely optimistic for the second half of the year, but it's going to be incredibly tight with Toyota, Renault and Williams. Having said that, my one day of testing at Silverstone did not go too well, so my preparation for the British Grand Prix has definitely been hampered, because the high speed nature of the track means it helps to get your eye in by doing plenty of laps. We're on the back foot, but the team has the strength to bounce back and have a good weekend.
-credit: red bull