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Exclusive Sebastian Vettel Q&A: The teams are very close out there 16 Feb 2010

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing. Formula One Testing, Day Three, Jerez, Spain, Friday 12 February 2010. Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing. Formula One Testing, Day One, Jerez, Spain, Wednesday 10 February 2010. Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB6. Formula One Testing, Day Three, Jerez, Spain, Friday 12 February 2010. Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB6. Formula One Testing, Day Four, Jerez, Spain, Saturday 13 February 2010. Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing walks past Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W01. Formula One Testing, Day Four, Jerez, Spain, Saturday 13 February 2010.

He may have been hindered by the rainy conditions that dominated last week’s four-day test at Jerez, and a few technical glitches, but Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel was well satisfied with his first outing in the RB6. While Vettel admits that a lot could change in the run up to the season opener in Bahrain next month, and there’s still a lot to discover about his competition, the young German feels that with enough hard work he could well have a car to put him in contention for the title…

Q: Sebastian, the first time you got into the RB6, it literally rained on your parade. Did the wet conditions let you draw any conclusions about the car?
Sebastian Vettel:
First of all, it’s good to be back in the car again after three long months. It was a long winter! The car felt alright immediately, even though the weather was far from ideal for testing a new car. But we all know that such conditions can occur over a race weekend, so it’s always good to have data to hark back to. Overall I would say that we can be very satisfied about how things developed. We were able to put in quite a lot of mileage, even if we had a problem on day four, which kept me in the pits for quite a while just when it started to get dry. But I would say it’s better to face problems at test session than at races.

Q: After four days, do you have a clear picture of where the RB6 stands in the pecking order?
SV:
It is still impossible to say. Due to different fuel loads, lap times can vary by two, three or four seconds. We concentrated on ourselves and were able to make a step forward. We tried some things and pushed the car a bit more in my direction.

Q: Have you been happy with the car’s balance?
SV:
It was okay. As I said, after three months it was my first run and we knew it would start raining early, so we didn't mess around with checking the car too long. We went straight out on to the circuit to do some laps. It was a cold start for me but it's good to know you are still able to do it. I felt pretty happy in the car. Obviously over the last three days we didn’t have a lot of time to really set up the car. It was more like shaking down the car. The weather was too changeable, so we did a little bit of work, which went in the right direction, but there's a lot more to come and I expect everyone to improve from where they are now - so we will see. At the moment it's pretty close. It looks promising and interesting.

Q: Did you have a chance to experience how the car feels with a full fuel load?
SV:
Yeah, I think at the moment everybody is trying to find out how the car feels when the tank is full, and I can tell you, it feels pretty different to last year. When you look at the lap times, you sometimes think it’s easy to say who is running on a lot of fuel or low fuel, but then people are playing around, so you might be three seconds off but still be quick when you are running with a full tank and others are not. It’s all a bit irritating - and very challenging. You might be seconds off the pace on Friday, but are really the fastest and you won’t know it until Saturday when you go to qualifying. We are heading into exciting times.

Q: What do you make of the 2010 cars in general? They look quite different to last year’s models, prompting some to say you’re now driving limousines…
SV:
The cars are definitely longer though it’s affecting some more than others. The objective was to integrate a tank that is twice the size of the one we had last year, and that demands space. Is it like a limousine? Well that’s a bit of an overstatement - we are still racy. It is amazing that with proportions that are so different to last year, the car is quite similar to drive. The difference isn’t that significant, unless you are full up to the top with fuel.

Q: The double diffuser has been fully integrated into the design of the RB6. Can you feel any extra help at the back?
SV:
Yes and no. You might think there is more grip at high speed, but on the other hand you are heavier in general so it's difficult. I'm pretty happy balance wise. I think the car is a step forward, not only in terms of numbers but also in terms of my own feeling. To be fair we haven’t had a lot of time in the dry yet, and that is where you usually find out most.

Q: When your car was in the garage, you spent a bit of time checking out the competition…
SV:
Well, when you cannot drive you have to keep yourself busy somehow, and it’s always interesting to see the other cars and have a look at their tyres and their condition. It can be pretty interesting.

Q: Have you been surprised by any of the cars?
SV:
There is not just one surprise; I think the biggest surprise is when you look at everyone. If you look at the cars they are not just different colours but also different shapes, with a different philosophy behind their design. They are all more or less close together, within a couple of tenths, so ourselves, Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes I think are pretty close. But the Toro Rosso looks quite strong as well. If you read into the lap times a bit, it is fairly close. There are a lot of things still to happen before Bahrain, and a lot of new parts coming for us, and of course for the other teams as well. But so far it looks very close.

Q: There’s been a lot of talk in the media about a burgeoning ‘fight of the generations’, between the youngsters and the old champion, Michael Schumacher. Do you realize that?
SV:
We are in Spain and here the people are writing more about (Fernando) Alonso and I do not notice too much what is going on in Germany. Probably that is not such a bad thing.