Exclusive Q&A with Red Bulls Sebastian Vettel 14 Mar 2011
Not many drivers have won a world championship, and even fewer have successfully defended their title. Sebastian Vettels bid to join that small but illustrious group starts next weekend in Australia. With the arrival of a new tyre manufacturer and moveable rear wings, Vettel believes it is impossible to draw any firm conclusions about the season ahead, but he is hopeful that the RB7 will be more than capable of matching its predecessor...
Q: After completing your final test kilometres, the next thing on your agenda is your flight to Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix. Whats your gut feeling about the season ahead?
Sebastian Vettel: Well, my first priority when I board the aircraft is to get a good sleep so I adjust to the different time zone. But I assume you are asking me about my gut feelings on the car and our competitiveness? I will make the trip with a very good feeling. The winter period was pretty satisfying for us. Weve managed to get good mileage under our belt - not as much as Ferrari - but more than weve ever done before. How good we are in the end compared to the others has a bigger question mark this season than any other season before. In previous years you had an idea of where you were and where the others were at the end of the test season, but this year it is almost impossible. There have been so-called experts coming forward offering their opinion but I dont think that anybody can realistically say what the pecking order will be in Melbourne, especially at the Albert Park track where weve seen surprises in the past. So lets wait and see. Within our team we are confident, so lets hope that we can stay that way.
Q: Are you the favourite?
SV: Can I read to future? Unfortunately not! So we all - including me - will have to wait for the first qualifying session of the season in Melbourne. We know what weve done over the winter, we know that our programme ran very smoothly so I think we go into the season well prepared. But the question remains - is it enough compared to our competitors? I think the first race will be extremely interesting, not only for mapping a pecking order but also in respect of the new tyres, KERS and the moveable rear wings. What I can say is that it will be a good show for the fans - and probably a good lesson for us drivers.
Q: The RB6 was the car to beat in 2010. Is the RB7 of a similar calibre?
SV: I felt immediately at home in our new car and it has shown excellent performance and reliability at all four tests. Reliability, as always, is key to success, as it doesnt help to have a car that is one second quicker than the rest but never finishes a race. The fact is that it is easier to make a fast car reliable than a reliable car fast, and we all know that the car we start a season with is not the car we finish with, so the second key to success is to constantly improve. We will get new parts at every race so our development speed should give us a break.
Q: This season you are the defending world champion. Will that change your approach?
SV: It is something that I dont think about too often. When you are testing it plays no role at all, as you are concentrating on your work, and in general, I prefer to look forward rather than backwards. Its satisfying to have the title but it will not help me at any race this season. We all start at zero again.
Q: After showing some improved pace at the last test in Barcelona it seems that Mercedes GPs Michael Schumacher is set to be much more competitive than he was last season
SV: Yes, they looked pretty competitive in Barcelona, even if they clocked their fastest time with low fuel. But Sauber also surprised with their performance. It takes something to do a time like that. It looks as if theyve kicked it up a gear! Whether they can maintain this performance in Melbourne, we will have to wait and see, but for now theyve definitely moved up some notches.
Q: Every team in Barcelona was practising pit stops as they can be a crucial part of a race result. How do you see races unfolding this season?
SV: We will definitely stop more often. Probably every five to 20 laps, so this will have a huge impact on how the race unfolds. This will be one of the most interesting aspects of the Australian Grand Prix. But as this is something that will apply to everybody I dont see a huge advantage for anybody. Having a good strategy will obviously help.
Q: At the first test in Valencia you left the garage after the first roll out of the RB7 with a huge grin on your face. Do you still think this car is a winner?
SV: It is only a winner after it has won a race, and we havent had a race yet. What is true is that the car feels good and the reliability is there. We were also already pretty satisfied with the speed of the car at the first test in Valencia and have since then systematically built on all those factors. Now lets go racing and see who has done his winter homework the best!
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