Horner remains coy on title race

09 Jul 2013 08:50

Red Bull boss Christian Horner on Monday refused to believe that Sebastian Vettel's long-awaited first home triumph in Sunday's German Grand Prix had given the champion and his team a clear advantage in this year's title race.

Instead the champions' team chief said he remained nervous about the potential threat of all three of Red Bull's main rivals as they approach the half-way point in the season at the Hungarian Grand Prix later this month.

Horner said: "It is still very much a four-way battle and you cannot discount anybody -- we are effectively at the halfway point of the year and there is still an awful long way to go. Anything can change.

"To have won four Grands Prix in the first half of the year is satisfying, but it doesn't guarantee anything. We see weekend to weekend different teams have different levels of competitiveness and I am sure it will continue during the next few events."

Horner's reluctance to trumpet Vettel's first win in the month of July and first on German soil did little to stop most observers feeling that by chalking up his fourth win in nine races, the defending triple world champion had delivered a heavy flow to his rivals.

Vettel was required to fight all the way to the line to fend off the challenge of Finn Kimi Raikkonen who finished second ahead of his Lotus team-mate Frenchman Romain Grosjean in a race that saw other teams left struggling with tyre wear in the searing heat.

Vettel's win opened up a 34-point gap over Spaniard Fernando Alonso of Ferrari in the drivers championship.

His victory also came despite Lotus opting for two different tyre strategies with their drivers in the closing stages of the race.

It proved that Red Bull and Vettel have the speed and versatility to win on all tracks and in all conditions.

Horner said the race was made difficult by the need to switch strategies because of the mid-race introduction of the safety car.

He said: "It was a tough call in some respects and not in others. The pace car came out when the Marussia started a life of its own, and that was at a very awkward point of the race because potentially that was too far to go to the finish on a set of the harder tyres.

"So, we elected to fit a set of scrubbed tyres, leaving one new set available for the last stint. We intended to stop again and were thinking that the Lotus might try and brave it out to the end.

"But, once Grosjean stopped, then it made perfect sense for us to cover him but the risk was then conceding the lead to Kimi if he didn't need to stop. He was looking in pretty good shape at that stage.

"So, having covered Grosjean, we then focused on keeping the gap to Kimi to less than a pit stop. Lotus was very quick on the soft tyre at the beginning of the race, but Seb had kept just enough up his sleeve to fend him off over the last few laps."

Red Bull were at the centre of attention on and off the track during the race and afterwards the team were fined 30,000 euros by the sport's ruling body the International Motoring Federation (FIA) for the unsafe release of Australian Mark Webber's car from a pit-stop, an error that led to a British tv cameraman being struck by a bouncing errant right rear wheel.

The cameraman Paul Allen was taken to hospital and reported to have suffered a fractured shoulder and cracked ribs. He was kept in overnight.

Horner added: "It is a horrible feeling because your immediate concern is for that individual and you hope that he will be alright."

The team decided not to tell Webber about the incident, which the FIA are investigating, so he could continue to focus on his race after recovering and regaining a fourth wheel. Webber finished seventh.

"It is a timely reminder that the pitlane is still a pretty dangerous place to be," said Horner, a comment echoed by most other team chiefs. Mercedes boss Ross Brawn added: "Now is the time to consider making everyone working in the pit lane wear a helmet and dress appropriately."