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Sebastian Vettel Q&A: We have to roll our sleeves up

13 Mar 2014

It’s the fourth year in a row that Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull have arrived in Australia as reigning world champions, only this time around they’re in the unusual position of being underdogs after a pre-season plagued by car problems. On Thursday in Melbourne, Vettel discussed how being in this new situation has changed his approach…

Q: Sebastian, in past years you always started a race with the goal to win it. Now you say that finishing is the goal. That’s pretty far off from previous seasons…

Sebastian Vettel: Well, what I’ve said is not a big, big surprise. We knew that (2014) would be difficult - the rules are very complex. What happens under the cover (of the car) is pretty close to science, so we knew already in 2013 that we would have a tough season ahead, that it would be difficult. But of course we didn’t expect this. But we will never stick our heads in the sand - we will tackle the problem and eventually solve it.

Q: What went through your head when you started to understand over the winter that there might be problems with the new car?

SV: Many times seeing things in the factory are one thing and testing them on track quite another. And yes, it became obvious at the first test that there was an issue as I spent more time in the pits than on the track. That is when you understand that you cannot turn a blind eye to the situation. Being in such a situation, it doesn’t help to talk it over again and again. What helps is to roll up your sleeves and turn things around. I think that when looking at our situation - and those of other teams - I would not categorically say that they are in much better shape. They can probably just handle the momentary situation a bit better. Eventually you could say that they’ve done a bit a better job over the winter, but the fact is it is a huge change and we will learn from race to race. Maybe we will see what works well now will fail a couple of races into the season.

Q: How are you handling the situation? We know that hope dies last - is there the hope that after the last Bahrain test things look more positive now?

SV: I will know on Sunday after the race. But just because we’ve done so exceptionally well in previous seasons it doesn’t mean that those seasons were a walk in the park. Coming into this season we knew that there is no such thing as a guarantee on winning, so right now it is not that huge a shock for us as it might be for people on the outside. Of course it is our determination to be successful, but as I just said, there is no guarantee for that - just working will get you there.

Q: You’ve named your new car, the RB10, Suzy. How do you have to handle her differently compared to her predecessors? Your car last year, Heidi, was hungry for the title - is Suzy on the same wavelength?

SV: Ha, first she has to be programmed correctly. That is what will make her tick! Her inner life is quite different to that of Heidi - so Suzy is a rather remote relative to all the predecessors! And is she hungry? We don’t have enough fuel on board for that so let’s hope she is not a boozer! (laughs) There are so many different things that drivers have to do differently that it will take some time until we grow together, Suzy and me. But that goes for all the guys and their cars - no matter how small their issues might seem right now.

Q: So what is your guess on what will happen this weekend?

SV: You definitely cannot say what will be going on. Here we have to evaluate where we are - and then there will be 18 more races to come. We have a strong group with clever people, so we will be in a good shape not too far from now. Right now I am pretty curious - I guess that is the right word, curious - how the race will develop. It is so different to what we’ve done in the past years.

Q: So let’s return to your notion that finishing the race is the goal. Finishing where?

SV: How would I know? We even don’t know the speed of the car. In the tests we struggled with reliability so we have very little idea about the speed. This race will be about seeing where we are, so any expectation is difficult to say. Generally we are here to win - so let’s see what we will get. We have seen in Bahrain that the car is quick but not reliable. My experience tells me that it is easier to make a fast car reliable than a reliable car fast, so let’s see how we are able to fix that reliability issue and then we should be in a good place!