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TG chats with Red Bull chiefs
In 2009, Sebastian Vettel led from start to finish, halting Jenson Button’s title charge. A year later, Mark Webber’s RB6 - replete with the controversial ‘old’ wing - denied Lewis Hamilton and romped to victory, prompting the now immortal line of “not bad for a number two driver”.
And now, as the F1 circus heads back to one of the world’s oldest and most famous circuits, Red Bull is eyeing another victory. It’s time for Silverstone.
Christian Horner, team principal, told TopGear.com: “It’s an interesting race with different characteristics - there are high speed corners, cooler conditions and of course, there’s the added pressure of Silverstone being a ‘local race’ for the team.” Though Austrian-owned, Red Bull F1 is based in Buckinghamshire.
“In the past, the races have been quite tight and close, but we’re hopeful for this weekend,” Horner continues. “We always tend to look forward towards the iconic races - Spa, Monte Carlo, and of course, Silverstone.”
Barring the infamous fall-out at 2010 - where Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel came to blows over that front wing - the team’s performance has been pretty much impeccable on this track. One that Adrian Newey finds a challenge, not least because of the roller coaster - and hugely exciting - season we’re currently experiencing.
“I think the most obvious lesson we’ve learnt so far is this season is very difficult to forecast,” he says, with a chuckle. His mannerisms are freakishly calm and genteel for a man who’s spent his life in the boiler room of championship-winning F1 teams.
“Silverstone is probably the circuit which has the highest reliance on aerodynamic efficiency,” Newey continues, “along with Spa, Barcelona and perhaps Suzuka, so it’s one of the traditional old circuits.”
“Therefore, high speed downforce in the quick corners is very important, but keeping that downforce in balance is particularly important this year. If you have the car out of balance, tyre life - well, you start to get into tyre problems very easily, as we’ve seen.”
This from a man with eight F1 titles under his belt. He should know a thing or two about aero, but what of this season fast becoming a ‘tyre lottery’?
“People have mentioned this ‘tyre lottery’,” he says, “but I think the quality control of the Pirellis is very good, so I don’t believe there are big variations between tyres of the same compound.
“But they are tricky to get to operate in the exactly the right window, and what we see every two weeks is very often some teams managing to get it in the right window, and others not. That’s the difficult bit to understand.”
What’s not difficult to understand is the problem with Vettel’s car; the problem that forced him to retire at Valencia after dominating most of the race.
Says Horner, brusquely: “It was the same problem that affected Romain Grosjean’s engine too - an alternator failure. The components have been reliably tested, so hopefully we won’t see a repeat problem this weekend.”
Get ready for a scorcher…