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Sebastian Vettel Q&A: Red Bull taking big steps forward

03 Apr 2014

Last time they were in Sakhir for pre-season testing, Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel did not have a happy time of it. Just a few weeks on, however, and there are at least some smiles. While they may not be able to challenge Mercedes for Bahrain victory, they at least know the RB10 has huge potential. Now they just need to realise it, as Vettel explained to the media on Thursday…

Q: Returning to Bahrain after those rather difficult winter tests, what is your feeling for the next few days?

Sebastian Vettel: Having not had the chance of doing too many laps here at the winter test, there are of course still quite a few boxes that we have to tick before race day. But then again we have already been coming here for quite some years, and this year the bigger outstanding fact is that we are having a night race. We think that there will be quite a big difference between the afternoon running and the evening running, so this might be rather similar to what we see every year in Abu Dhabi. Other than that we are trying to make progress with the car, and there is still a lot that we have to understand and learn. Since Malaysia it has been only a few days, but nevertheless we will have a closer look at the programming of the software, which will be different here.

Q: How do you see your chances of keeping up with Mercedes here in Bahrain?

SV: Here the track is a quite tricky one, as you have got a lot of straights, and therefore we have got to save quite a lot of fuel on Sunday compared to Malaysia. And already in testing, and for sure at the first two races, we have seen that Mercedes has the strongest package. They are way quicker than us on the straights, so it will be difficult to keep up with them. But a very positive thing that we have seen in the first two races is that our car has potential, so it is up to us now to get the best out of what we have at the moment. Generally the cars are still fairly early in their development, and there are a lot of things that we have improved already considering where we were two months back. It is still a long way to go until the end of the season. At the moment it seems that we are making big steps forward, and we need to ensure that these steps remain big in the future, and hopefully bigger than the ones from our competitors. If you take a look at the speed traps at the previous races, we and also the other teams are slower than the Mercedes, which is fair enough as they did a very good job and deserve to be in that position. For sure Renault is pushing very hard to make the engine more powerful. We need to ensure that we finish the future races reliably, as at the moment only one car finished the races.

Q: Will there be any issue here with the temperature control?

SV: I don’t think so, as Malaysia is one of the hottest races in the calendar and we did not have too big a problem controlling the temperature there. Also it gets cooler here in the afternoon, especially when the sun is down, so it should be fine.

Q: Is overtaking more difficult this season than it was last year?

SV: Let’s say it is more complex. It basically all comes down to how much you discharge your battery while overtaking, and how much battery charge the other car has left to overtake you back. This also has a very big impact on how fast we go down the straights. There are a few things that are not in our hands at the end of a lap; what we are in control of is obviously how much throttle we apply, and in the past we had one button on the steering wheel that we could decide when to use to overtake and use the battery power. This year we have quite a lot more buttons, and there are so many more things depending on when you press which button and for how long.

Q: Your team mate Daniel Ricciardo received a 10-place grid penalty here for the unsafe release in Malaysia. What do you think about this?

SV: I personally think that the penalty that Daniel (Ricciardo) has received is too harsh for him being the driver. There is not much that Daniel could have done much better, as he reacted to the lights that he had in front of him. As soon as the mistake was realized he was told to stop, which he did. So there was nothing that he as a driver could have done differently or better. It is quite hard to pay the price for this a race later with dropping down 10 spots on the starting grid. Of course it is the same rule for all of us, if something similar happens to any other driver. Of course we have discussed this rule at the drivers’ briefing.

Q: What is your view of your team mate Daniel Ricciardo after two races?

SV: He had a very strong weekend in Australia, and not only because of where he finished the race, but also because of the entire weekend. He didn’t make any mistakes, didn’t go off-track and had a very good qualifying session in tricky conditions. Also he had another good weekend in Malaysia. I was very sure from the beginning that he will try to give me the hardest time possible, and so far he has delivered exactly this. I am also sure that there will be days where he will be quicker, and I will not be happy about this. From my point of view I will of course try and limit these days, and from his point of view he will try and make sure that these days happen very often. But that is I guess the normal passion between team mates. I am very happy to race him on the track, and as we have the same car I am sure we will probably be fighting for the same piece of track occasionally.