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Sebastian Vettel Q&A: Car issues have compromised set-up

09 May 2014

Things couldn’t have gone much worse for reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel on Friday in Spain. Not only did the Red Bull driver’s RB10 grind to a halt just four laps into FP1, but the subsequent repairs ruled him out of FP2 altogether.

During some unexpected downtime, Vettel explained how the technical setback would affect his weekend, and discussed what has been a somewhat difficult season so far…

Q: Sebastian, Barcelona is traditionally the place for introducing upgrades. How ‘new’ is your RB10?

Sebastian Vettel: Is it new? Not really. Of course, we’ve brought bits and pieces and have decided to change the chassis to a ‘new-old’ one. It’s not that we believed that there was an issue with the other chassis but sometimes you turn back to the well-established, even if you don’t have any real traceable doubts.

Q: What will you do better in the next few races, compared to the first four?

SV: I think we took a lot of information from the last race - and if you take the last two races where we had similar issues, then my guess is that the signs are slightly different here. We’ll try to ‘reset’ everything and implement the things that we’ve understood so far.

Q: Being beaten by your team mate (Daniel Ricciardo) cannot be satisfying, especially as the defending champion…

SV: Well, in the last two races the gap was in fact a bit too big. Generally you always try to get the maximum out of the car - that goes for both of us - and Daniel did a really, really good job and was a good reference for me. But yes, he has shown that I didn’t come close to this level, so there is still a bit of catching up to do.

Q: Let’s go back to China. On the team radio you were told to let Daniel past because you were on a three-stop strategy…

SV: At that point I was on a three-stop strategy, but as the tyres lasted longer than expected the decision came to try a two-stop race. With three stops I would have had to pass two or more cars and as we are not the real champs on the straight this seemed to be a viable solution.

Q: It can’t have been pleasant to have been asked to let your team mate pass - how did that go down?

SV: Like I said immediately: I didn’t understand it. We had been speaking about such possibilities - and something else was agreed on - but as he was on a two-stop right from the beginning - and was faster - there was no reason to chew it through over and over…

Q: How are you dealing with the current situation? Are you working harder right now than ever before?

SV: Of course I am not happy about the current situation - finishing second or fifth - and it doesn’t make any difference if it is to my team mate or to somebody else. In our situation now it is good that my team mate can use the car to the full so that we can see what is possible.

Q: You’ve frequently expressed that you are lacking confidence in this car. Now if someone has that feeling in a road car they wouldn’t get in in the first place…

SV: Well it’s very simple: with a road car it doesn’t make much of a difference if you stop at a traffic light at 12.00pm or at 12.01pm, but in our case it does as we are fighting for tenths and hundredths of a second. In that situation you feel the differences. If you push your car to the limit and all the pieces don’t fully fall into place than you might lose time on every lap - and that adds up. No driver likes it if his car doesn’t feel comfortable - if you slide here and there at the wrong moment or at the wrong spot.

Q: So what do you do?

SV: You try to permanently cope with the situation because if you drive one hundred laps and make the same mistake one hundred times then you clearly haven’t learned anything. So of course you try to adjust: try to find another line, try to drive ‘around’ the problem; simply experiment to find a way to avoid that problem. So far I’ve experimented a lot in the car but unfortunately the solution was not among that.

Q: There have been rumours that McLaren’s Ron Dennis has sent you a ‘love letter’ trying to lure you away from Red Bull next season…

SV: Ha, it’s been quite a while since I received love letters! The fact is that right now we have so much on our hands to close the gap to Mercedes, so we are extremely occupied with the here and now. Next season is light-years away!

Q: In the here and now it seems that you also have to have the qualities of a fire fighter…

SV: Ha, probably yes. It was a pity that this morning we suffered an electrical short so we then had to change the complete cable loom. That is something you don’t do in minutes, and is why the rest of the day was ‘free time’ for me.

Q: It seems strange that these things seem to keep happening only on your car. Is that simply down to bad luck?

SV: I don’t believe in good luck or bad luck. There is always a reason behind why things happen - and yes, they did happen on my car. But there’s no need for pity.

Q: Is the electrical problem a big issue, something that could also haunt you tomorrow?

SV: It’s not really a big issue, but one that is a bit tucked away, so you don’t get there easily. But we will have a brand new cable loom tomorrow so there shouldn’t be any further issues with that.

Q: You had the chance to follow FP2 from outside the car. You spoke about the huge gap between the Mercedes cars and the rest…

SV: Yes, it’s huge. But basically it’s on the straights because in the corners we come pretty close. For tomorrow morning we will use Daniel’s data, but then of course 50 percent of the possible data (from today) is missing which doesn’t make it easy for me when it comes to the race set-up.

Q: Having to swallow all these glitches: are you still confident of defending your title?

SV: Yes. There is still such a long way to go and everybody knows that I never give up!