The head of Red Bull Racing, Christian Horner, at the FIA press conference in Imola stressed the need to work together to find some kind of solution that will allow his team to continue working with Honda power plants.
Question: There is a lot of talk about the future of Alexander Elbon – what would you advise him before the start of this weekend?
Christian Horner: Now Alex plays in our team, pilots our car, and everyone wants him to keep this place. I think he needs to disconnect from all this external hype, get together and work well this weekend.
It’s great that we are back in Imola, on this old school track, and we are waiting for an unusual weekend, which will be held according to a more concise program. Therefore, now it is important to tune in correctly and try to squeeze the maximum out of the car.
Q: You have said more than once that the instability in the behavior of the rear of the car, because of which Pierre Gasly suffered last year, now affects Alex. If you replace Elbon next year, how big is the risk that any new rider will face the same problems?
Christian Horner: Of course, there is a risk. Fast cars can be difficult to tame at times, and we are trying to improve lap times by making faster corner entry speeds. This year, certain difficulties are associated with the car, and they have become more serious than they were in the previous season. But I suppose the team is starting to understand what is the reason for them, and are introducing technical solutions that will allow them to be dealt with.
We’re working hard to create a better machine that doesn’t have these features, and everyone on the team is focused on that job.
Question The other day we learned that Toto Wolff does not object to a moratorium on the modernization of power plants, but Ferrari is categorically against such a moratorium, this position was expressed by Luis Camilleri. But Jean Todt said he would not allow himself to be blackmailed. Unfortunately, Cyril Abitebul was not present at the press conference, and we could not ask him. Do you know Renault’s opinion on this issue?
Christian Horner: I think each manufacturer has its own point of view. It’s nice to hear that Toto Wolff is ready to support such a moratorium, but this is understandable, because Mercedes has the best engines, and if they could, they would freeze the modernization of power plants for 20 years. In the end, everyone has their own interests, and here the FIA and the owners of commercial rights must have their say. They must see the picture in its entirety and understand what will benefit Formula 1.
It is clear that we will lose a supplier like Honda, which is terrible news for our sport. In order for Red Bull to be able to independently continue working with engines, it is necessary to freeze programs to modernize power plants. Especially in the conditions in which the whole world found itself. I think the FIA and Formula 1 are having a constructive discussion on all these topics, but of course, all the engine manufacturers related to Formula 1 should participate in it.
I would like to believe that it will be so, because it is clear that it is necessary to work out some kind of solution.
Q: According to Pierre Gasly, he was surprised that Red Bull did not consider him as a possible candidate to replace Alex Albon. If this is true, can you explain what is the reason?
Christian Horner: In my opinion, we clearly explained everything to him. AlphaTauri believes that he plays a key role in the development of the team, as they now face new challenges, different from those of Toro Rosso. It has already been emphasized that from now on it is not just a youth team, and we are very happy for Pierre Gasly, he is doing an excellent job.
He is satisfied, the team is very happy with him – why break it? They explained to him that he had a long-term contract with Red Bull, signed for years to come. We have all the necessary information about Pierre at our disposal, and I will repeat: during the negotiations, it was made clear to him that his future was connected with AlphaTauri. Simply because this team is at a development stage and faces serious challenges.
Question At the beginning of the race in Portimao, you had serious problems with warming up the tires. You started on soft tires, which in theory should have provided an advantage over Mercedes, as Medium was preferred to this team. Do you have an explanation of what the difficulty is, and how it might affect the team’s tactics in the future?
Christian Horner: It is clear that the problems are related to temperature. Both of our riders had difficulty warming up the tires – compared to us, McLaren just flew! On the other hand, their tires worn out much faster than ours, and the cars began to lose grip on the track.
Pirelli tires are not easy to work with, there is something of black magic in it – in hindsight we realized that the cooling of the tires probably should have been made less efficient, this would allow them to warm up better. Of course, it would have helped in the early laps.
Q: It is likely that in 2023 there will be a ceiling on the salaries that can be paid to riders – what are the pros and cons of this approach?
Christian Horner: The discussion is still ongoing, there are no clear rules, there was no vote, but this is not about limiting the ceiling of salaries that riders can receive. The point is that if this ceiling is exceeded, the teams will have to pay this difference out of the budget that should actually be spent on the development and modernization of the machine.
It is clear that the issue of expenses worries all teams, it was discussed, the discussion provoked certain responses, so let’s see how it will go, but there is still a long way to go before including such a provision in the regulations. First of all, it is necessary to understand whether this is feasible at all, since there are still a lot of legal complexities.
Q: There are 23 races included in the preliminary 2021 season calendar. Do you welcome this, or are there any concerns about how such a schedule might affect the team?
Christian Horner: 23 races are a very busy calendar. That being said, don’t forget that we are living in a special time, and in Formula 1 we did an incredible job to organize 17 stages in 2020.
If we talk about the load on the riders, then next year there will be three days less tests, and I would prefer to conduct races instead of tests. But the mechanics will have a hard time, because they travel the world in less comfortable conditions. Plus, 23 races mean they’ll be away from home for 23 weeks of the year. This number of stages is approaching the maximum possible, and we actually have to recruit a second racing brigade.
As Alex has already pointed out, the option with two-day weekends is very interesting, especially towards the end of the season, which promises to be extremely busy. I think it still needs to be analyzed, but we must be ready for some innovations.