Sebastian Vettel was at Jerez this morning for the unveiling of his Red Bull Racing team's RB6 car and its first day of testing. Teammate Mark Webber is driving today, with Vettel due behind the wheel for the first time on Friday.
Vettel offered his thoughts on the new car and the coming season, including missing the Valencia test, his title ambitions and adjusting to the new regulations.
Q. How did you miss not running for the first three days?
Sebastian Vettel: The first two days, don't make it worse than it is. It has been a long winter, a long time without driving, so it's not nice to have to wait another two days but in the end it's nice to be here, to listen to the cars, to see them running again – for sure I would love to drive today.
Q. How much of a disadvantage is it that you missed the first test at Valencia?
SV: We committed very early that we would not run in Valencia. We knew very early, so it wasn't the week before that we had to cancel. Of course, it's not an advantage, but I don't think it's a disadvantage, so we will see.
We have to use these days as much as we can. The weather doesn't look very promising for the next couple of days.
Q. What do you think of your car?
SV: I think it's nice. The cars look completely different compared to last year, I think it's more of an evolution of last year's car. It looks very interesting and very nice, especially under the cover as well. Let's see, the most important things are that it is fast and reliable, this is what we are going to find out over the next couple of days.
Q. Are you concerned about the weather here [Jerez]?
SV: What can we do about it? Nothing. So are we concerned? Of course, it would be nice to have four days of dry running. I just saw some drops outside, it doesn't help but we have wet tires as well so we can run in the wet. Dry running would be nicer but it's not something we can change.
Q. What are your expectations for the year?
SV: It is always difficult at the beginning of the season, especially at the beginning of testing. First of all you need to make your car work and then you see where you are. According to that, you set your expectations. For sure there is only one target, to be just one step better than last year.
Q. After your performance last year in many ways you are viewed as the championship favorite. Does that in any way change your approach?
SV: I don't really care. It has been first of all a long winter, now we get going again. Most important now is that the car is running, we improve the reliability, the speed – that's what we're trying to find out. Being favorite or not, I set my target for myself. I know what I want to achieve this year.
Q. What are your thoughts on doing a whole race on one tank of fuel?
SV: I don't know yet. It will be a new experience. It will be quite tough in the beginning of the race with a very heavy car, especially at the beginning when the circuits are very dirty and it's quite slippery. The fact that you're running around with a lot of weight doesn't help, we will see how it feels in the next couple of days. I'm looking forward to it, it's a new experience.
Pit stops will be quite short, the question is how many do you need for tires – it's not 100 percent fixed by the regulations yet. Also we'll see how many tires we need. It's a new challenge, so these days are important, as usual, to find out how the car is working and with the new regulations, high fuel and so on.
Q. Is it an advantage for the more experienced drivers who did it already?
SV: I don't know whether that's an advantage or not, I cannot tell you now, we've had no running yet with that amount of fuel. I don't know whether it's easy to adapt or difficult. From what I've been told, it's not too bad to go quite quickly.
There have been drivers in Formula 1 a couple of years back when we went to slicks that had run slicks already in F1 and in the end it was not that much of a step, we were all used to it from the lower formulas. Now it's something different, we will see. I don't expect any big advantage for an experienced driver compared to a young driver.
Q. Who do you think will be fighting for the championship this year?
SV: First of all we have to find out how good the cars are. Then you have a lot of good drivers in Formula 1, not only one or two, so we will find out who is fighting or who is falling in the position to fight for the championship, and we will see.
Obviously, I hope we are as strong as we were last year, or even stronger. Then you've got teams, McLaren, Ferrari, who look very competitive already, and Mercedes with Michael. It's going to be an interesting season for you.
Q. Will this season be harder than last year?
SV: Every year is tough. It's never easy. Sometimes it may look easy or, in the end, you might say this was easy, but you always have to fight to win a grand prix and to be consistent throughout the whole season, so I don't think it's easier or harder.
Q. You mentioned consistency. In the first part of last year there were a few races where you could have scored points but didn't. Is that something you're going to concentrate on this year, to still score when things aren't going well?
SV: Looking back, last year some races you mentioned it was just not meant to be. Things happened, sometimes things go wrong, sometimes things are out of our hands. Consistency is the key, now with the new points system as well you get quite a lot of points up to 10th position. It's important to finish the races and collect the points, but it always has been. Even if you are not in a position to win, you should be achieving your maximum, whether that's third, fourth or whatever, and collect the points. Now we have two races more so it's even more important.
Q. As a contender for the title, how does it feel?
SV: Happy. But as I said before, I set my own targets. Whatever you might write or say, it doesn't really matter. I want to win the World Championship, I know where we want to be as a team. If we are the favorites, that's fine. If not, that's fine, too.
Q. What are your thoughts on the performance of the Renault engine?
SV: We will try to do our best. We had some problems with reliability last year, which didn't make it easier – especially for me. But I think we have solved those. You could see that toward the end of the year, yes we were limited on mileage and it was a compromise, but we managed to get through the season without a penalty. That was a very good thing and we have seen since then that reliability wasn't a problem any more. I don't expect a problem from that side.
Performance-wise, I think sometimes it looked worse than it was, so we will see. We are confident, we have no reason to fear a weakness from the engine.