As Formula 1's rookie test got under way at Jerez on Tuesday, Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner was present to follow the progress of British Formula 3 champion Daniel Ricciardo. Horner spoke about RBR's plans for 2010, whether it will run Renault engines, and just how Australia's latest F1 rookie performed on his debut.
Q. Does Renault's inclusion on the FIA entry list for 2010 as Red Bull's engine supplier mean the deal is done?
Christian Horner: I wouldn't read too much into the entry list. We're obliged to put an engine as per the regulations. But we are allowed to change the engine at any point up until the first race. Obviously, we have to put an engine on the list and the most likely engine to have in the car next year, at this moment, subject to Renault's confirmation, is a Renault engine. We have to put an engine on the list, and that's the logical choice so far.
Q. Is Cosworth still an option for you?
CH: At this stage, realistically, no. In principle, we have an agreement with Renault and hopefully in the next week or so everything will be finalized.
Q. Is the only uncertainty from their side?
CH: It's subject to contract at the moment, but in principle we have an agreement. We have to put something on the entry form and at this point in time it makes sense that it's Renault. We've enjoyed three good working years with them. They're a very good partner and it's been a very successful collaboration with them. They've supported us well through difficult times this year, particularly with Sebastian Vettel's car, where we've had to limit the engine mileage. They obviously have concerns over engine parity at this point in time, and until engine regulations are clear, I can understand a hesitation on their side.
Q. Would Renault pull out of F1 as an engine supplier if it pulled out as a team?
CH: I think it depends on what's done with the engine regulations moving forward in terms of parity. The teams have decided that the engine should not be a performance differentiator under the frozen rules. I think it's vital, not just in the case of Renault, but in the case of all the engine manufacturers, that a solution is found.
Q. What is the sticking point over engines?
CH: I think the teams are incapable of agreeing, because there's always too much self-interest involved. I think the best way forward is for it to be regulated through the FIA. You just need to make sure you're comparing apples with apples, rather than apples and pears. Next year, despite there being no refueling, power is still a big issue. The fact is it's remarkable how much the engines continue to evolve, despite the freeze. I think on the clear understanding that an engine is not a performance differentiator, it's been unanimously agreed that engine parity is a key issue for all manufacturers.
Q. Should one manufacturer be penalized, though, for spending less money and making a better engine?
CH: If you go back to the start when the freeze was put in place to save costs, you'd have to say it's done that. The problem is, you freeze an advantage or disadvantage. One manufacturer did a huge amount of work just before the freeze came in. And now we find a situation where the spread under a freeze involves engines being worth 0.3-0.5 seconds per lap. That's too wide.
Q. Were you impressed with Daniel Ricciardo today?
CH: I've been very impressed. He's come through our junior program. We've followed him through Formula 3 this year – I watched him at Silverstone and was very impressed. He was obviously the dominant driver in F3 this year. Our engineers have been very impressed with his simulator work and he's had a very good first day in the office here. One hundred and ten laps and no signs of real fatigue. Obviously his fitness program is serving him well.
Q. What was his program?
CH: We're looking at some things for next year. Obviously, weight is an issue – cars run a lot heavier next year. We're just having a look at some different aspects. Obviously it's the only running we have before next year, so we've tried to gather as much data as we can.
Q. How close did you come to running the 155kg of fuel cars will have to carry next year?
CH: We can simulate all kinds of weight issues. You can do it in different ways, but the majority of our work was focused on next year, which is why we've elected to use the same driver for all three days.
Q. Is Ricciardo in the race to be test and reserve driver next year?
CH: We'll see how this test goes, but he's a very promising young talent. He's developing well. We'll analyze this test and make a decision over the winter.
Q. Did the early spin affect him in the car?
CH: Not at all. I think the bump caught both he and Brendon out. They both ran hard tires on a cold morning, so very low grip. And it caught them both out. But there was no damage to the car, so that's fine.