Sebastian Vettel Q&A: Less grip, but a good feeling 10 Feb 2012
The first Formula One test of the year never seems complete without the defending world champion, so the arrival of Red Bulls Sebastian Vettel at Jerez on Thursday was greatly anticipated - and his first appearance in the RB8 closely scrutinised. And after completing almost 100 laps of the Spanish circuit and setting the third-fastest time, Vettel enjoyed a pretty solid start. The German assesses his debut run in his new charge and weighs up the rest of the field
Q: Sebastian, after the winter break, how does it feel to be back in the fast lane?
Sebastian Vettel: It feels good - believe me, its about time that we go racing again. Its like being home again.
Q: You completed 96 laps on Thursday. What is your verdict on the RB8?
SV: If I were a psychic I would be able to tell you right away. But I am not. I have done 96 laps and that is definitely not enough to figure out something as complicated as a Formula One car. All I can say is that I feel comfortable and the gut feeling seems to signal green. Due to the changes in the regulations we have less grip than we had last season and I think all of us need some time to adapt to that. The only solution to this is mileage. We had some minor issues over the course of the day - nothing serious, but as it is testing we must dig to the very bottom of them. If we were racing the maxim would be to carry on until it breaks!
Q: If there is an overall loss of grip, does that mean you will be slower here than last year?
SV: No, but we will be more cautious, especially in the morning when the track is pretty cold. We dont have so many spare parts for the new car right now, so it wouldnt make sense to go out like a raging bull. On top of this, it was two months ago when I was last in a race car so you definitely have to use your brain before you use your foot.
Q: Will your driving style suit having less grip?
SV: Well, less grip means that we cannot go so fast in the corners and it doesnt allow the tyres to work as well as they used to. But it is pretty cold here and last year at the tests we had the same issues with the tyres, which was caused by the cold temperatures. But once the season started and we arrived in a normal race weekend climate everything worked very well. So theres no reason to panic. But you probably have to work a bit differently and adapt your driving style. Thats all I can say after only one day in the car.
Q: Why is there less grip?
SV: Well, if you take the cars from last year and the year before they were basically built around the rear with the double diffuser in 2010 and the blown exhaust last year. That is almost completely gone this year. Yes, we still have an exhaust, but it is almost irrelevant. You realize that when braking, when accelerating and when going into the corners.
Q: What is the more important quality for a new car - speed or reliability?
SV: Definitely speed! You can work on the reliability, but a reliable car without speed will very likely never be a winner.
Q: From what youve seen of the other cars, have you been surprised? Lotus seem to be doing well, whilst Ferrari seem to be struggling?
SV: Well, it is definitely too early to say anything. When you go out at the right time, with the right tyres and low fuel you can set a good time. My guess is that [at the next test] in Barcelona we will see what the other cars are made of. You cannot go into a season on staged test lap times. I think that teams that are able to do a lot of mileage without issues will be in good shape. Lotus look pretty good from what Ive seen. Theyve been fast and showed a consistently good performance. Ferrari and McLaren are the big question marks - and maybe so are we.
Q: But you must have data from the simulator, so you should have an inkling of whether the car you have now is the car that you want - and need
SV: Yes, I think we are where we thought we would be - and for the moment we can be satisfied.
Q: Its said that there is no such thing as a second first impression, so how important is the first taste of a new car?
SV: Very important - as it will accompany me all season long. Of course you dont form your opinion on that first impression, but it will definitely stay stored in your memory.
Q: Are you more relaxed ahead of this season than you were last year?
SV: No. I definitely dont want to take a bad turn. I want to stay where I am now so we all know what the programme for the season will be.
For tickets and travel to 2012 Formula One races, click here.
For Formula One and F1 team merchandise, click here.