• Team championship can be clinched in Abu Dhabi
• Sebastian Vettel out to equal Sir Jackie Stewart’s 27 wins
Christian Horner on Thursday hailed Red Bull’s third successive year of domination in Formula One as “for sure our biggest achievement.” And the team principal suggested that Sebastian Vettel could go on to emulate and even beat Michael Schumacher’s record of seven titles when he said: “I can quite easily see him with us for another five years.”
Red Bull are poised to become only the fourth team to win a hat-trick of constructors’ championship in Abu Dhabi this weekend. Vettel, meanwhile, is favourite to land another hat-trick – the drivers’ title – in Texas or Brazil later this month.
Horner could be forgiven his moment of pride, because his claims are justified. Formula One, dreading another period of monotonous domination so soon after the Schumacher/Ferrari era, changed the rules this year, especially in relation to the blown diffuser and the flexi-wing, to emasculate the runaway bulls from Milton Keynes.
The plan was to drag Red Bull back into the pack. And for the first two thirds of the season, it worked. But the old order has been restored, with Vettel winning the last four grands prix; he has led every lap of the last three races, equalling Ayrton Senna’s 1989 record.
Referring to the rule changes that were designed to bring an end to his team’s hegemony, Horner said: “Formula One has a history of doing that sort of thing. Look at active suspension, or you can go back 20 years and see it. I think we saw a big regulation change which had a big effect on our performance. We have not moaned or complained about it, we have just worked hard on the same sheet of paper as everyone else.
“It is uncomfortable [for some people] the success that Sebastian has had and uncomfortable for some the success that Red Bull has had. That’s not our fault.”
Time and again, Horner talk about the ethos of a successful team. “It is very simplistic to say it is all about [chief technical officer] Adrian Newey. Yes, it’s Adrian’s team but you have to have all of the elements doing their bit. I liken it to a conductor – you can have the greatest conductor in the world but if you haven’t got the right string instruments or wind instruments, the music will be rubbish.”
But Horner’s efforts were in vain because Newey and Vettel were the only members of the team his audience wanted to talk about. “Adrian is the greatest designer in Formula One since Colin Chapman. What he has achieved is unprecedented, in the modern world of F1 and we have created an environment that has got the best out of Adrian, one that he enjoys and feels stimulated in.”
Red Bull’s domination is looking dangerously like an epoch. And if they do go on to match Ferrari, Horner feels it will be the greater achievement. “The difference between that time and now is that then you had total freedom. You had competition of tyre manufacturers, you had total freedom of testing, and there was no one else operating at Ferrari at Schumacher’s level. Whereas now, the way the regulations are, everybody’s got the same tyres and everybody is allowed the same amount of testing.
“It’s much more constricted and restricted. So to achieve success now, and dominance, is arguably a lot harder than it was in that period.
“This year, we have worked really, really well and effectively because we quite often haven’t had the quickest car. On those days, the drivers – particularly Sebastian – have dragged the best out of it.”
Horner reserved his most fulsome praise for the driver who – aged only 25 – could equal Sir Jackie Stewart’s record of 27 victories in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
“What Sebastian has achieved in a relatively short period has been hugely impressive. And he will get better. That’s the exciting thing about him.
“He’s driving better this year compared to last year, and he drove better in 2011 than he did in 2010 because his experience is growing and his character is continuing to evolve. You forget what a young guy he is.”
Formula One is expected to have a fourth British driver next season, with Max Chilton tipped to take over from Charles Pic at Marussia. Chilton, who organises his own sponsorship and has a multimillionaire father, will take Pic’s place in the first practice session on Friday. The 21-year-old said: “I’m a racer and I want to get a race seat. I’d love the chance, and hopefully it will come soon. I’d like to do a good job, but it would be a bit silly for an F1 team to try to work out whether you are ready with just one session.”