Eleven races, six podium finishes and 184 championship points in the bag (112 of them coming in the last six races) – the run from the start of the season to the summer break has been a tale of rapid progression and big performance gains.
As the team prepares for the mandatory two-week shutdown, team principal Christian Horner reflects on the highlights so far, looks ahead to the opportunities to come, and reveals how he avoided a reverse bungee in Austria...
How would you summarise the first half of the season?
CH: After a difficult start, we've managed since the beginning of the European season to really gain momentum. So going into the summer break, six podiums, including a grand prix victory and third in the championship is where we currently sit. I think the most pleasing aspect is how the car has developed, particularly, as I say, from Spain onwards, and in recent races we've started to have really competitive outings.
Daniel enjoyed an impressive run of podiums as well. From a team perspective, which one of those results was most enjoyable for you?
CH: Daniel has had a great run, but obviously a grand prix victory is always special, no matter how they come. Obviously we got a little bit lucky on that day but it was great to see Daniel win the race. But races such as China, which was very good with Max, and Austria, where Daniel was under huge pressure, the same in Montreal, we've had some great races.
Max had quite a bit of misfortune in the first part of the season but how important has it been to see him finish and make it to the flag in the last two races before the summer break?
CH: He'd been unbelievably lucky until that point, because he had been driving at such a high level. To be taken out in Barcelona, through no fault of his own, to have had successive engine failures in Montreal and Baku, where he was in a position to certainly finish on the podium if not win the grand prix was immensely frustrating. But he has dealt with it incredibly well and I'm certain that after the summer break he is going to have a strong second half of the year.
The performance does seem to be naturally progressing. Do you expect that trend to continue into the second half of the season, even with all the flyaways?
CH: Very much so. I think the team is working very well collectively. We're getting performance on the car, we've got some venues coming up that hopefully will suit us and we'll keep pushing all the way to the final race in Abu Dhabi. There is a big gap between us and the cars ahead but there are opportunities in the remaining races and we're going to be going all out to try and achieve what we can, and obviously the lessons you learn apply to next year anyway.
How does our current position compare to you pre-season expectations?
CH: I think we're behind where we want to be, but we're working hard to get onto the front foot. I think we are going to treat the second half of the season as a reset and see what we can achieve over the next nine grands prix.
On a topical point, the Halo has been confirmed for next season, what are your thoughts on that, as a team principal, and what are the challenges of trying to implement in quite a tight timeframe?
CH: I think the FIA have made the decision, and I understand the reasons they felt compelled to make it, but personally, I don't like the halo. I think it moves away from open-cockpit racing, which Formula One has been. There are obviously challenges with it. It is quite heavy. We have been given an extra five kilos of weight allowance to implement it, but it's not very pretty and it's a shame it's on a grand prix car for next year.
The factory will shut down now, but what does that involve? Is it a complete shutdown or are there elements of the business that still tick over during that period?
CH: Operationally, it is a complete shutdown. What we're allowed to do is maintenance work. It's the one time all the machines get turned off, all IT gets turned off, so we get to do a lot of servicing of the building, paint the floors, a lot of deep cleaning going on. It's very busy on the service and support side but operationally the vast majority of the business is on a compulsory break.
In the first half of the season we kept you quite busy away from the track – we've taken you ice skating and raft racing and so on. Do you enjoy the off-track activities?
CH: Yeah, there have been some different challenges this year; I haven't been on ice skates for about 25 years. I think it's great to get involved in other activities. It's who we are at Red Bull Racing, we're not afraid to do things a bit differently, have a bit of fun, and I think it's great to see the drivers' and the team's personalities coming through in events like that. So hopefully more to come, I avoided being reverse bungee jumped in Austria though.
Any bungee jumping happening for you over the break? What are your plans?
CH: Hopefully no bungee jumping! It's a good opportunity to take a bit of time out with family. Hopefully we'll get away to see some sunshine for a week or so. Definitely it's an opportunity to recharge the batteries ready for the big push after the summer break.