Christian Horner reacts to Red Bull incident in Turkey


Christian Horner has been speaking about the Turkish Grand Prix incident that cost Red Bull a one-two finish in Istanbul last Sunday.

The team have had 48 hours to reflect on the collision between their drivers, which happened as Sebastian Vettel attempted to pass Mark Webber to take the lead on Lap 40.

The McLaren duo of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button benefited from the manoeuvre, inheriting the positions. Hamilton went on to lead his teammate to the checkered flag, claiming his first victory of 2010.

Mark Webber eventually came home in third place after pitting for a new front wing, but Sebastian Vettel was unable to continue, and park his damaged car at the side of the track.

Christian Horner, the Red Bull team principal, explains in detail the event leading up to the collision, and the incident itself.

“We had a unique situation during the Turkish GP where the first four cars were separated by two seconds, with Mark having led every lap until lap 40,” said Horner. “The race was the fastest of the season to date with all four drivers pushing each other extremely hard.

“On lap 38, Mark changed his mixture setting based on his fuel consumption to a slightly leaner mode, which had an average lap time loss of about 0.18 seconds, whilst maintaining the same revs. Sebastian had conserved more fuel than Mark during the race and therefore was able to run in a slightly better mode for an additional couple of laps.

“On lap 38 and 39, Sebastian's pace picked up and he closed right up to the back of Mark while under considerable pressure from Hamilton behind. After a very strong run through Turn 9, Sebastian got a run and strong tow and moved to the left to pass Mark. Mark held the inside line and adopted a defensive position, which he is entitled to do.

“When Sebastian was three quarters of the way past, he moved to the right. As Sebastian moved to the right, Mark held his position and the ensuing result was contact that resulted in Sebastian retiring, Mark damaging the front-end of his car and the team losing a one two finish.

“Ultimately both drivers should have given each other more room.”

This information from Horner explains why Vettel was gaining on his teammate in the first place. As the teams have become accustomed to the new regulation banning refuelling, they have been trying to get away with putting less and less fuel in the car at the beginning of the race. As a result, the drivers can not go 'flat-out' for the entire duration, and must, at some point, ease off to ensure they can reach the checkered flag.

Vettel had saved fuel in the early stages of the race while he was behind Lewis Hamilton, while Webber needed his full race pace to keep the Brit at bay. Vettel was then using his fuel in the latter stages, as he tried to keep Hamilton – who he had passed during the pit stops – back in third place.

What Horner doesn't say is whether the collision was caused by Vettel moving right on his teammate too quickly, perhaps in an attempt to show who had the upper hand in the team or perhaps because he just hadn't seen him, or whether Webber was defending his lead too aggressively by not giving his teammate enough room on the tarmac.

Many ex-drivers and pundits on the day said that the incident was either entirely Vettel's fault, or mostly Vettel's fault. So to whom, in the cold light of day, does Horner apportion blame to?

“What we expect from our drivers, as team mates, is that they show respect for each other and allow one another enough room on the race track,” said Horner. “Unfortunately neither driver did this on Sunday and the net result was an incident between the two. During the previous six one-two finishes we have achieved, there have been many incidences of close racing between our drivers and they have previously always abided by this understanding.”

So in short, Horner is blaming both his drivers equally. Vettel clearly thought it was Webber's fault when he got out of his wrecked car straight afterwards, doing the internationally recognised signal for mad/loopy/mental/insane. “The adrenaline was flowing and obviously there's a great deal of frustration when you've just crashed out of a race,” said Horner, dismissing the young German's reaction. “It will be discussed and I am certain that the air will be cleared before Canada.”

There were reports on Sunday that both Horner and Marko Helmut of Red Bull blamed Webber for the incident straight after the race, saying that the Australian driver shouldn't have pushed his teammate out on the dirty side of the track while he was under pressure from Hamilton. Horner discounted this initial reaction, saying that the team hadn't known all the facts about the incidents at the time:

“Ultimately we win as a team and we lose as a team and on Sunday we lost as a team, as a result of our two drivers having an incident,” said Horner, again refusing to blame one driver. “Having looked at all the information it's clear that it was a racing accident that shouldn't have happened between two team-mates. After looking at all the facts that weren't available immediately after the race, Dr. Marko also fully shares this view.”

If the two Red Bull drivers had not collided, Horner believes they would have resisted the challenge of the two McLarens and still claimed a one-two finish in Turkey. “Our priority as a team is to finish first and second, irrelevant of the order,” insisted Horner.

“The Turkish GP was the closest race of probably the last twelve months with significant pressure coming from both of the McLarens. Sebastian's pace improved from lap 37 onwards and he appeared to be the faster of the two Red Bull drivers.

“Had the incident not have happened, I believe we would have achieved a one-two finish and a maximum score for the second race in succession.”

All of this raises the question: why didn't the team just tell the two drivers to hold position, and drive defensively to stop the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton in its tracks, and take the one-two finish with Webber claiming his third successive victory?

“With the pace of the McLarens and with it looking like Sebastian was the quicker of the two Red Bull cars, the priority was to win the race,” answers Horner. “With intense pressure from Hamilton behind, who was in a McLaren that had a significant straight line speed advantage, it would have been impossible to back Sebastian off. Therefore it was acceptable to us for him to attempt an overtaking manoeuvre.”

Does this mean that there were team orders in play? Did Webber intentionally disobey an order to let Vettel pass?

Horner sticks to the standard line to answer this question, knowing that team orders as such are forbidden in F1. ”Neither driver was given any instruction to change position,” insists the Red Bull team principal. “There are no team orders within Red Bull Racing, other than that the drivers should race each other with respect.”

Horner is insisting that no driver is to blame for the incident, and that they must just respect each other on track.

However, he now has two unhappy drivers, each thinking that they were faultless in Turkey, who will now be wary of their counterpart's motives. Horner is determined to put this incident behind the team though:

“We're a very strong team and we will sit down and discuss this openly with the drivers in order to learn from what has happened and avoid a situation like this arising again. One of the strengths of Red Bull Racing is the team spirit here, which has contributed to the performance that we have achieved so far this season. The drivers are both intelligent individuals and this issue will be resolved prior to the Canadian Grand Prix.

“I have spoken with both drivers, who are both disappointed with what happened. They recognise that they represent the team and so are not only disappointed for their own loss, but the loss of points for the team who put in so much hard work before the race.”

The incident has also raised many questions about which driver is leading the Red Bull team and whether there is any favouritism from the team. Sebastian Vettel is a German driver in an Austrian team, who has been part of the Red Bull 'family' for many years, and the team obviously have a lot invested in him. Mark Webber is 11 years older, Australian, and possibly nearing retirement. Christian Horner, however, denies that any driver is given an unfair advantage by the team, or will be in the future:

“Both drivers, as has always been the case, will continue to be given equal treatment,” insists Horner. “The Turkish Grand Prix has been a costly lesson for both drivers and we are confident that this situation won't happen again.

“Dietrich has spoken with both drivers following the incident. He has always supported both drivers equally and summed it up by saying shit happens… we shouldn't talk about the past, but concentrate on the future. The fact is that we not only have the fastest car, but also two of the best and fastest drivers”.

Finally, Horner tells us the opinion of Dietrich Mateschitz, the boss of the Red Bull drinks company: “As far as Red Bull are concerned, this information from Horner draws this incident to a close.”

However, it will still provoke much debate, and all focus will be on the body language and relations between Webber and Vettel in Canada. As for Red Bull's rivals, they will be pleased that the team that has a clear performance advantage over the entire field have not lost the ability to trip themselves up. As it was neatly put in The Sun's headline on Monday: “Red Bull gives you wins!”

Photo Credit: Vladimir Rys/Bongarts/Getty Images