Horner hopes for no 'rabbits out of the hat' in 2020

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says that all the signs are there for a ‘classic’ championship season in 2020 – providing none of the teams are able to pull off a last minute surprise advantage over the rest of the grid.

“Unless somebody pulls a rabbit out of a hat, I think we’re set for a really exciting year next year between, Mercedes, Ferrari and ourselves,” Horner told Motorsport.com. “It could be a real classic season.”

Although Mercedes described 2019 as one of their toughest and closest seasons so far, they still finished more than 200 points clear of Ferrari in the constructors championship.

And Lewis Hamilton easily clinched the drivers title with 413 points, compared to 278 for his nearest non-Mercedes challenger, Red Bull’s own Max Verstappen.

But Horner said he would be surprised if the Silver Arrows were able to repeat that sort of dominance in the standings again in 2020, given that the sport’s technical rules are essentially unchanged this year.

“We’ve got continuity across all aspects of next year with drivers – with regulations, with engine supply, with engine regulation,” he explained.

Horner drew comparisons with the last time that the rules had been unchanged between seasons, which turned out well for Red Bull at the time.

“If I look back to 2017, we had a fantastic car at the start of the year. We should have been on the front row in Melbourne, and we won the second race in China.

“We had a very, very competitive car [at the start of 2017],” he continued. “That was with stability of regulations, and we have that again from 2019 into 2020.”

Horner added that he expected the Red Bull car that will line up in Melbourne in March will essentially be an upgrade of the RB15 which closed out last season in Abu Dhabi, without any big changes being planned.

That should enable Red Bull to get a stronger, more consistent start to their campaign compared with 12 months ago, when off-season changes to the aerodynamic and tyre specifications intended to encourage closer on-track racing caused Red Bull some early headaches.

“The front wing regulation change and the tyre change over the winter seemed to affect us perhaps more than our opponents,” Horner acknowledged.

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB15.

The team had also been busy transitioning from one engine provider to another, working with new partners Honda to improve the performance of the power units to put them on a level footing with Mercedes and Ferrari.

“At that time we were still catching up on from the power perspective,” Horner concurred. “But I think from Austria onwards, we really got on top of that.”

Red Bull was certainly increasingly competitive as the season went on. Verstappen clinched three wins at Austria, Germany and Brazil, and successfully claimed his maiden pole position in Hungary followed by another in Brazil.

“The second half of the year for us had been very competitive,” Horner agreed, while sounding a note of caution about what 2020 lay in store for the team. “You can’t gauge what others are doing [until pre-season testing].”

Teams aren’t expected to make big developments to their car this year, given that a major overhaul to F1’s sporting and technical regulations is planned for 2021.

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Horner: Honda the first supplier to keep promises

Christian Horner says that, for the first time, his team have an engine supplier who delivers on what they promise in Honda.

Red Bull enjoyed a successful first season with the Japanese manufacturer, winning three races and having better power and reliability than they previously had with Renault.

“Obviously we saw an awful lot of spreadsheets over the years, from Viry [Renault’s engine headquarters] but never realised the potential of what was on those sheets,” Horner told Motorsport.com.

“This is the first year where everything that was promised was absolutely delivered. And it’s just a different environment, it’s a different type of partnership.

“It’s a true partnership, and you can see what it means to Honda when they get a result, when they get a pole position and they get a victory; the emotion, the pride, the satisfaction throughout the whole business.

“So I think it’s a very, very different relationship to the one we previously had with Renault during this V6 turbo-hybrid era.”

Horner and Red Bull constantly fell out with Renault in the latter years of their deal, and the team principal says that a harmonious partnership free of fighting is key to the team’s improved fortunes with Honda.

“We’ve achieved three poles on the track this year [Verstappen lost his pole in Mexico to a grid penalty], we’ve won three races,” Horner added.

“We could have won arguably in Monaco, we should have won in Mexico. Austin we were quick. So we’ve had a really good race car a lot of circuits this year.

“The progression from Honda, with each engine that they’ve introduced and together with our fuel partner, the whole thing is working in harmony.

“So rather than to get fighting, always feeling very much as a customer, it’s been a true partnership. And they share the same goals and objectives as we do. You’re seeing the benefits of that.”

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Horner: Verstappen the most 'in form' driver at the moment

Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner says Max Verstappen is “right there”, ready to challenge for the world championship as F1’s most in form driver.

The praise lavished upon Verstappen by Horner comes after the Dutchman’s strong run to the checkered flag in the final races of the 2019 season.

Verstappen conquered his third win of the year in Brazil in dominant fashion and finished runner-up to Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in Abu Dhabi.

On the back of his driver’s form and Honda’s progress, Horner is convinced Verstappen can give Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, not to mention Ferrari’s chargers, more than a run for their money next season, if the team gets its future RN16 right.

“He’s in a position now where he’s more than capable of challenging for the world championship and we need to give him a car that he can do that with,” Horner said.

“If we can do that, I’ve got every confidence that he can take the fight to Lewis, Mercedes and Ferrari.

“He’s right there. His form has been fantastic and I believe he’s the most in form F1 driver at the moment.”

©RedBull

Putting a consistently strong piece of equipment in Verstappen’s hands is a tall order. But Horner believes that the team’s recent performance level coupled with F1’s regulation stability for 2020 bodes well for the Milton Keynes-based outfit.

“I think we’re in the best position we’ve been in since the change in regulations at the end of 2013,” Horner added.

“Red Bull’s philosophy to invest in youth means we have emerging young talent in all areas of the business which is really starting to pay dividends and the team is on a charge.

“We need to come out of the blocks competitively next year, Mercedes are still the benchmark going into next year so we need to try and push them from the first race in order to take the challenge to them.

“There is a real buzz and anticipation in the factory at the moment, so we need to capitalise on that and build on the positive momentum from 2019.”

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Horner remains impressed by Albon despite missed podium

Alexander Albon might have missed out on his first F1 podium on Sunday, but the Red Bull driver can still hold his head up high according to team boss Christian Horner.

Albon started the Brazilian Grand Prix from fifth place on the grid and benefitted from the retirements of Valtteri Bottas and both Ferraris. He was running in second place behind team mate Max Verstappen when the race restarted following a late safety car.

Lewis Hamilton had stopped for fresh tyres under the caution and was much faster than those around him when racing resumed – but in his haste to catch the race leader, he clumsily made contact with Albon who was sent spinning.

The incident meant that Albon ended up in 15th place, while Hamilton lost a podium finish after being penalised for spinning Albon.

Hamilton immediately apologised to the rookie driver after the race, and Horner absolved him of any blame and praised him for an outstanding drive.

“It was a huge shame for him to lose that podium on the penultimate lap,” Horner told Crash.net after the race.

“Unfortunately on the last lap, Lewis went for a gap that was rapidly diminishing and contact was made. That was a 1-2 finish for the team and second place for Alex taken away.

“Lewis has obviously put his hand up and apologised but unfortunately it doesn’t get Alex’s podium back,” he continued. “But he can leave here with his head held high.

“He looked really comfortable racing world champions,” Horner added. “He’s now racing wheel-to-wheel with Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel and Ferraris and he’s making great progress.

“Okay he didn’t get the trophy, but he’s impressed the whole team with his performance.”

Albon arrives at Brazil secure in the knowledge that he would remain at Red Bull in 2020. This time last year he was a very late signing for Toro Rosso, and was only promoted to the senior Red Bull team over the summer.

“It’s an encouraging signal for next year,” Horner pointed out. “He’s impressed his whole team with his race craft.”

Alexander Albon (THA) Red Bull Racing RB15 and Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W10 battle for position.

Albon said he wouldn’t bear any grudges against Hamilton for the clash and that it had just been one of those racing incidents in the heat of the moment.

“Of course I’m frustrated but I’m not angry, I’m just upset,” he said. I wanted that podium and we deserved it as it was on merit.

“Obviously Lewis had good grip once he pitted and I think he would’ve got me eventually into turn 1, but I thought worst case scenario we had P3.

“I had a good gap to Lewis and I wasn’t worrying about him. I went into the corner deep just to cover him so he didn’t get any ideas, and then there’s a blind spot and obviously we made contact.

“Of course he didn’t do it on purpose, it’s just one of those things,”he shrugged. “It’s done now and we’ll focus on the positives before the next race.”

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Horner: ‘Max was never going to give that win up’

Christian Horner says Max Verstappen was never going to let the Brazilian Grand Prix win slip away from him.

The Red Bull driver passed Lewis Hamilton twice to banish his 2018 demons and take a stunning victory.

“It was a fantastic race. He was not going to give up that win today,” Horner told Sky Sports after the race.

“He had the benefit of the new set of tyres and he really used that on the out lap and he was able to take the lead early again.”

Horner looked set to see his team take a 1-2 finish for the first time since the Malaysian Grand Prix in 2017 when Alex Albon passed Sebastian Vettel at the Safety Car restart.

However, the Thai driver was taken out by Lewis Hamilton with two laps to go.

“I’m gutted for Alex. I told him his time’s going to come and it’s a drive to be proud of, he made a move on some experienced world champions there and his time will come,” he added.

“It’s a deceptive corner because that is the racing line that Alex is on and Lewis has made a bit of a half-hearted attempt up the inside.

“The contact’s been made and he’s had to wait until right until the end of the queue, but it’s just looked like a half-hearted effort.”

The Red Bull team principal concluded by paying tribute to Pierre Gasly, who finished P2 to take his first podium, months after being dropped down to Toro Rosso.

He said: “In that environment, there’s been less pressure, the car is a little easier to drive, and he’s driving brilliantly and it’s great for him and great for his confidence.

“It’s great for Toro Rosso too, and it was great to see them get that result today.”

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Horner: Albon’s Development is Very Impressive

Red Bull’s Christian Horner has reiterated the team intends to “take our time” before confirming who will partner Max Verstappen in 2020, while heavily hinting it will be incumbent Alex Albon.

“After his accident and the front wing change, he was the fastest driver on the track,” Horner told Auto Motor und Sport, referring to the US GP in Austin.

“The way he fought his way through the field was phenomenal.”

Albon is now sixth in the drivers’ world championship, “even though he has only done seven races for us”, Horner added.

“His development is very impressive. I don’t think it will take much longer before he can drive right at the front.”

But for now, Red Bull says Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly are technically in the running to be promoted for 2020.

“We will not make any hasty decisions,” Horner said. “All the drivers are under contract, so we can take our time.”

McLaren driver Carlos Sainz, a former Verstappen teammate, says he doesn’t regret leaving the Red Bull programme and therefore his chance of securing the seat.

“It doesn’t matter who will be next to Verstappen next season, as he will remain the first driver,” the Spaniard told Sky Italia. “So it doesn’t affect me at all.”


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Horner: Red Bull building momentum despite 'oddball' Singapore

Red Bull’s Christian Horner believes his team has been building its momentum in the latter part of the season despite an “oddball” performance last month in Singapore.

Red Bull was the first team to defeat Mercedes this year, thanks to Max Verstappen’s win in Austria.

The Milton Keynes-based outfit repeated the feat in Germany, but its strength relative to its front-running rivals has subsided since the end of F1’s summer break.

While Red Bull never anticipated winning on power circuits Spa and Monza, it was singled out as a clear favourite to take top spoils at Singapore. But set-up issues completely quashed its prospects at Marina Bay.

“For me the oddball event was Singapore. We undershot there,” Horner told Motorsport.com.

“We didn’t extract as much out of the car as the potential of the car had. I think it was predominantly a setup issue. And I think we have understood it subsequent to the event.

“It was a shame because Singapore is a circuit – we still managed to get a podium out of it and beat both Mercedes – but you could not help but feel that we had not maximised our potential.”

Since Singapore, Horner considers Red Bull’s results as having been “on par” with expectations, taking into account Ferrari’s significant step forward since Spa. He insists his team and Honda are nicely building their momentum in anticipation of 2020

“The momentum that we have built this year, it was always going to be a transitionary year,” explained the Briton.

“I think what Honda have done in improving each of the engines that have been introduced [is positive], and I think chassis wise for sure we took a bigger hit on the front wing regs than perhaps some of our competitor

“But having understood that and worked our way through that, it very much feels like we are building good momentum in the latter stage of development of this car into 2020.”

As far as Horner is concerned, the concerted effort by Red Bull and Honda and the subsequent results achieved this year all bode well for a competitive campaign next season.

“I think collectively there are a lot of good things going on and this year has been very much a transitionary year,” he added.

“I think working with the engineers at Sakura and Milton Keynes, they have really gelled extremely well, and I think we will start to see the benefits of that hopefully during the course of next year.”

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Albon has 'confidence and direction' heading to Mexico

Red Bull driver Alexander Albon is feeling buoyed up after getting his best-ever F1 result in Suzuka, and intends to carry that success forward into Mexico.

Albon qualified for the Japanese Grand Prix with exactly the same time as his team mate Max Verstappen. And while he dropped two spots at the start, he soon battled his way back and finished in fourth place, while Verstappen retired after first lap contact with Charles Leclerc.

It’s put the London-born Thai driver in high spirits and left him hungry for more as he seeks to overhaul Pierre Gasly – his predecessor at Red Bull – the drivers championship.

“After getting my best result of the season in Japan last week, I’ve got good confidence and direction heading to Mexico,” he said in the team’s race preview this week.

“Japan felt like my best weekend with the team, and we’re gelling more and more so I look forward to carrying that momentum into Mexico.

“Historically it’s been a good track for Red Bull, with pole position and a win there last year, so obviously that’s positive.”

With just 17 Grand Prix races under his belt, Albon acknowledged that his lack of experience at a number of overseas tracks was perhaps his biggest obstacle at this stage of the season.

“Mexico and the US will be the last back to back races of the season and I can’t wait to get out there and check out both tracks.

“Like Suzuka, [the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez] will be another new track for me but this one looks a little more forgiving,” he said.

“I’m really excited to drive in the infield section where all the fans are, as I’ve heard that’s pretty special.”

Alexander Albon (THA) Red Bull Racing.

Meanwhile Albon has been basking in some well-earned praise for his recent outings, including from some people in the F1 paddock key to his future in the sport.

“Alex did an amazing job to match Max’s time [in qualifying,” said Red Bull boss Christian Horner. “It was his first time here at Suzuka, a really tricky, drivers circuit.”

Horner indicated that Albon was now favourite to stay with the team in 2020: “He’s certainly making a really good play for it. It’s his seat to lose in many respects and I think everything he’s done so far he’s done a super job.”

Even the team’s motorsports consultant Dr Helmut Marko gave a thumbs-up to the 23-year-old’s performance.

“Considering he was at Suzuka for the first time, he did a very good qualifying,” he told Osterreich newspaper. “He is getting better.”

But inevitably there was some criticism as well from Marko: “He has some speed to gain in the race, but he takes too long to get going.”

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Horner sees new hope for aeroscreen in F1

Red Bull boss Christian Horner says that the aeroscreen concept might still have a shot of getting picked up by Formula 1.

The Red Bull Advanced Technologies design was dropped in favour of rolling out the halo cockpit protection system in 2018. This helps deflect debris and other solid objects away from the driver’s head in an open cockpit.

The halo’s value was demonstrated in a first lap crash at last year’s Belgian Grand Prix. Fernando Alonso’s car was launched into the air and fell onto Charles Leclerc’s Sauber, with the young driver’s head escaping harm thanks to the device.

Red Bull proposed a more conventional ‘windshield’ type concept, but its on-track test in 2017 reportedly made Sebastian Vettel feel ‘dizzy’ due to the distorting effect of looking through the thickened material.

“Forward vision is not very good, I think it’s because of the curvature,” Vettel reported at the time. I tried it this morning [and] I got a little bit dizzy!”

With the windshield out of the running, the halo was formally adopted the following season and is now standard on all F1 cars. But the shield is back on the agenda after the US open wheel IndyCar Series opted to push ahead with its development.

Defending series champion Scott Dixon will try out the latest iteration of the device – now called the aeroscreen – at Indianapolis Motor Speedway next month. It incorporates an F1-style halo with a screen made from ballistics-grade material.

Dixon tried out an early version of the screen last year at Phoenix, along with additional testing in a simulator. If the new outing is successful then there will be further tests in October at the Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama to see how it fairs on a road course.

“I’ll be interested to see how it operates in IndyCar,” Horner told Autosport magazine this month. “How it’s received, some of the challenges that will inevitably happen.

“It will be a good test pit for it,” added Horner, who is also CEO of Red Bull’s advanced design company. “Hopefully it will work out well for them.

“And if it works, then why not look at introducing it to F1?”

©WRI2

IndyCar has seen a number of serious incidents involving head injuries in recent seasons. Former F1 driver Justin Wilson died in 2015 following an incident at Pocono Raceway, where a crash ahead of him sent debris flaying into his path and into his cockpit.

James Hinchcliffe was knocked unconscious by flying debris during the 2014 Indianapolis Grand Prix road race, and sustained a concussion that delayed his participation in qualifying for that year’s Indy 500.

“I should have been on the podium the year I got knocked unconscious,” Hinchcliffe said afterwards. “I remember very clearly that I wasn’t on the podium!”

Asked if the aeroscreen would have made a difference, Hinchcliffe said: “I would have got that podium, dammit!”

The initial push for a cockpit protection system came from an accident in qualifying for the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix in which a rear spring from Rubens Barrichello’s car detached and flew into Massa’s face.

Although protected by his racing helmet, Massa suffered a serious skull fracture and required immediate surgery, which sidelined him for the remainder of the season.

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