Over a quarter of the 2008 season is now behind us: time to catch up with Team Principal Christian Horner and Chief Technical Officer Adrian Newey
How do you sum up the first part of the season?Christian Horner: "The last four races have seen us running pretty much where weexpected to be. We lost out in the first round, which was an atypical race in which,unfortunately, neither of our drivers was around to score points at the finish. Sincethen, Mark has scored points in every race and David has come close, with two ninthplaces finishes in Malaysia and Istanbul."
What about the car's performance?CH: "In general, we have made a significant step forward from last year, both inperformance and also in reliability. The battle to finish fourth in the championshipseems every bit as intense as the one to win it, with our major rivals being Renault,Toyota, Williams and, on occasion Honda. We have seen over the last three or fourraces that we have been very competitive when compared to the works Renaultteam and Mark and Fernando (Alonso) have had some good races."
Where has the new-found reliability come from?CH: "Reliability is always important, but the new regulations regarding engine andgearbox life make that even more of a factor this year. Good reliability usually comesfrom good design and last year we suffered because the car was such a completechange to anything this team had seen previously. Since then, we have strengthenedthe group in several areas, appointed new project managers and reliability has beenone of our main focuses over the winter. So far, touch wood, we are one of the fewteams with a one hundred percent mechanical reliability record. The gearbox wasour Achilles heel last year and we gave away a lot of points because of that. Hats offto the whole transmission group who have done an exceptional job with the four racegearbox."
How do you rate your drivers' performance so far?CH: "Mark is in the form of his life at the moment and I think he is driving extremelywell. He has put in some impressive race performances for us in the last four races,and has had a strong start to the season while David has had more than his fairshare of bad luck, but he was very much back on form in Istanbul, which is verypositive for the Team, as we rely heavily on both our drivers bringing back points."
Care to make a prediction for Monaco?CH: "Monaco is a lottery and it is always dangerous to go there with too manyexpectations. Two years ago we had a great result when David scored the team'sfirst podium, whereas last year was very frustrating. Both drivers like the circuit, withDavid having won twice and Mark winning the F3000 support race in 2001, so theyhave a strong track record but it's a unique circuit which makes unique demands,penalising the slightest mistake from man or machine."More follows…www.redbullracing.com redbull.gepa-pictures.com
Adrian, with five races under our belts, how do you assess progress so far?Adrian Newey: "We can be reasonably satisfied with where we are after the firstquarter of the season. The field has tightened up and we are significantly closer tothe top than last year, if you look at lap time difference between our times and that ofpole position and the race winner. Certainly the pack behind the top three teams isvery tight and quite often at the end of Q2, there will be just a couple of tenthsbetween eighth and fourteenth places. The slightest slip up can really affect yourSunday afternoon."
Are there any areas of the RB4 that need more work rather than just planneddevelopment?AN: "Generally, we are reasonably happy that the car has lived up to ourexpectations. One area where the car is struggling a little bit is in terms of tractionand we are working hard on finding out why. Other than that, the general package isperforming much as we had hoped for. In terms of aerodynamics, we are also ontarget. Last year we struggled with the correlation between wind tunnel figures andwhat we saw on track. This year has been much better on that front. There are stillsome differences we would like to eliminate, but they are much less marked than lastyear."
The next two races, Monaco and Canada, present some interesting challenges.What has changed on the cars for these two events?AN: "Monaco is of course a high downforce circuit and this weekend we will have anew front wing to balance the higher downforce rear wing which we had already,even though we had no requirement to run it at maximum so far this year. Then forCanada, the lowest downforce circuit we will have tackled so far this year, we willrevert to the same front wing as used in Turkey but trimmed to a different profile.Those are what I consider the normal race to race specific changes, but in addition tothat we have some new aero and mechanical parts for Monaco, including a revisedsuspension package, which we evaluated at the Ricard test last week. Some of theparts will specifically tackle those traction issues I mentioned. Monaco is also quitetough on brake calliper cooling. It is a strange circuit as brake cooling per se is nottoo much of a problem but the callipers get very hot because of lots of fairly lightapplications. The other key element is down to the undulating nature of the circuit,which therefore puts a premium on how you look at the mechanical set up of thecar."
A circuit where the slightest mistake involves an unscheduled meeting withthe barriers, the possibility of rain over the weekend and all this with notraction control. What can you do to try and help the driver in theseconditions?AN: "You can divide development into dealing with the lack of traction control intovarious areas. Firstly there is engine mapping to make the engine as driveable aspossible which is on-going for all engine manufacturers and involves us too, asultimately how the chassis performs can be affected by how the engine delivers itspower. The second element is trying to make the car more driver friendly in terms ofits basic handling which is down to suspension and aerodynamics. People talk aboutthe loss of traction control, but actually it should be loss of electronic control aids.The most obvious element is the lack of engine power modulation on corner exit butequally if not more importantly we were all using the engine as a stability control aidon corner entry where everyone was effectively running a form of rear wheel ABS, so
that if the rear wheels began to lock up the engine would be accelerated to stop thewheels locking. To some extent that would be carried into the entry stage of thecorner. Without this, it puts a premium on the chassis to cover up what we were ableto do electronically before."
Are you looking forward to the Monaco weekend?AN: "I think everyone looks forward to Monaco. It's an idiosyncratic place, but thefact it is so different to anywhere else we go means it is always something to lookforward to."