Exclusive Sebastian Vettel Q&A: I am here to win 03 Mar 2009
If Sundays Jerez timesheets were anything to go by, Red Bulls RB5 could well be the surprise package of 2009. And with man of the moment Sebastian Vettel in the cockpit, the pairing could even prove to be a winning combination. But while Vettel admits hes feeling positive, hes quick to point out that racing is a very different matter to testing - hes waiting until the season opener in Melbourne later this month to see if the car really can satisfy his ambitions
Q: Now that you are better acquainted with the RB5, what is your impression?
Sebastian Vettel: Its a very good impression so far. It is still not one hundred percent, but the car so far is quite reliable, fresh out of the box since we started here in Jerez at the beginning of February. It seems to go better and better. Actually, the first feeling was right, as straight away I was pretty happy with the cars balance. To judge the performance is still difficult. We know where we are, we know what were doing - but we dont know about the others. This we will see in Melbourne.
Q: On day one of this weeks test you clocked the best time out of eight cars. What does that tell you?
SV: It is always difficult to judge the times in testing as every team has its own programme, but indeed, it was a pretty decent first day. We tried to simulate a race but did not succeed. But compared to the others I can say that we had a good day and have been in good shape. But its no secret that if you are so far ahead of the others, you were quite a bit lighter than the rest.
Q: It was the first time this year that eight teams tested their new cars together, so lighter or not, it was quite impressive. Does it indicate that the RB5 could be the revelation of 2009?
SV: We made a great leap forward, but I am not saying that we are one of the teams to beat. Racing is always different and we are not the favourites. We are working very hard, and hopefully we will be able to score points from Melbourne on and even some podiums. But these are dreams of the future.
Q: How much has the car changed since its rollout?
SV: Well, we have had some modifications, but nothing big. For the next test, we will get some new parts but nothing dramatic. From the outside, the cars look different already so the new things coming will be in the detail. Our focus right now is to make the car reliable and sort out the small problems that we had.
Q: Are there any significant teething problems?
SV: The saying goes that if you want to finish first, first you have to finish, so the paramount factor is reliability. And here we are going according to plan. We are not perfect yet, but we are not far off. The most important thing is that the first feeling was right and the performance seems to be decent. Now it is all about making the car reliable, and then well see.
Q: There is speculation that half of the teams will not run KERS until the start of the European season in Barcelona. Does that apply to Red Bull Racing?
SV: We will not run it for at least the first three races. We tested it a lot and we are testing it now, as we need to eliminate all possible uncertainties, in case it is an advantage to use it and you need some experience. At the moment I really feel it is difficult to say if it is quicker or not, and one lap is always different compared to a whole race distance. Here again the most important thing is reliability and then you look for an advantage. I see it as a bit critical, because on the one hand the system is fantastic from a technological point of view - it is amazing how it works and how much power you get out of it, it is a nice piece of technology. But on the other hand there is so much work involved with it, so much development and so much money. In times when you have a ban on testing during the season, it is difficult to have a system that sucks a lot of money, so you can see it this way or that way. It is funny to push the button and all of a sudden, you go quicker - you really feel quite strong.
Q: What are your impressions of your competitors?
SV: First of all, the cars all look distinctively different to last year. It is difficult to say thats a beautiful car or thats an ugly car. I like the look of our car, its very special, but in the end its all about pace. There is one thing that is hard to get used to - the very wide front wing. When I am in the car, I dont see it, but every time I step out of the car and see this massive front wing I have something of a wow feeling.
Q: Its less than four weeks until the Melbourne grid. Is the temperature rising?
SV: Obviously testing has become much more important. Before it was always somehow possible to do a private test here or there, but now that is history. So you better use the test time you have as efficiently as possible. The pressure is there, no doubt, but nobody is getting nervous or crazy.
Q: Will the poor weather conditions at the tests so far have an impact on the first races? Will we see some underdeveloped cars on the Melbourne grid?
SV: I think everybody knows pretty well what hes got in his pocket. True we lost track time but then you work with simulations to cushion the deficit. But probably we will see surprises in Melbourne, when you expect more from updates that looked good in simulation but dont deliver on the track.
Q: Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz said recently that if the team cannot give you a competitive car, he will not stand in the way of you pursuing your career elsewhere. What does that mean?
SV: It means what he said. The target right now is not to think three years ahead. We are focused on this season, but anything can happen. We want to do a good job, but it is also an unwritten law in Formula One that you are only as good as your last result. And I would be lying if I said my target is not to win. I am here for winning!
Q: Is there a clause in your contract that says if you dont score a certain amount of points then the team will release you so you can look for other options?
SV: I think you will have to ask this question to my manager but unfortunately I dont have a manager, so now I have to answer this question myself! And as my manager, I would say I dont talk about contracts...