Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner has admitted that the pressure is mounting on his team to start delivering better performance on race day, after securing yet another pole position in the German Grand Prix.
The squad has taken 10 top grid slots this season – a feat which now cannot be matched by any other team this year – but it still finds itself behind McLaren in the world championship standings. Horner is well aware that Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber need to start bringing home more points, especially with the season now entering its second half.
"I think we are now approaching the business end of the championship, and it is important we convert strong qualifying into points on a Sunday," Horner told AUTOSPORT. "At this point we have won 50 percent of the races which, under any circumstances, is a very healthy start to the year. But the McLaren drivers have done an excellent job in achieving consistent race finishes – that is why we have won more races and that is why they are ahead in the points.
"Here, it is important that we convert the qualifying into good points. It sets up a fascinating race and one that will be far from straightforward."
Horner said that Vettel's pole position – the second closest in the history of F1 – meant so much simply because of how hard-fought it had been.
"It was so tight. It was so close. Ferrari looked strong on Friday, and Fernando Alonso particularly. He seemed to have us covered in the first two qualifying sessions and I said on the pit wall that it was going to take something special to pull this one off today because I think we were about two and a half tenths down in Q2.
"Seb pulled out an unbelievable final sector of the last lap to take the pole position by the smallest of margins. It was unfortunate that Mark [Webber] got hooked up on the kerb on the way in to Turn 1, and that he did not get a clean run on his last run, because I think we could have had both cars up there. But it was a fantastic result for the team and Sebastian at his home grand prix. It sets up a really interesting race."
With Ferrari having matched its best qualifying result of the season, Horner said the title fight dynamics had changed – and that the Maranello team had to be treated with full respect.
"As we have seen, different circuits seem to flatter and expose different strengths and weaknesses in each of the front running packages," he said. "The consistent thing we have managed to do is achieve 10 pole positions out of 11 races so far, which is a phenomenal record over a single lap.
"But Ferrari have looked strong, they have looked like our closest challenger in pace in the last two races, and they have just had a lot of bad luck. They have demonstrated a very strong team performance this weekend and I am sure we will have our hands full keeping them behind us, but that is what we will be aiming to do."
He added: "I have been saying all year that you must not underestimate Ferrari. They are a team with such a track record in F1 – and a strong driver lineup – that you would be a fool to discount them."