Sebastian Vettel is optimistic that there will be no repeat of Red Bull's early-season reliability problems of recent years as it starts its title defense. The World Champion remains unwilling to predict Red Bull's pace, but is very satisfied with the amount of mileage it has been able to cover compared to previous winters.
"I think the preparation was good so far," he said. "We did a lot of kilometers, maybe not as much as Ferrari, but more than we have ever done so far.
"I think we are reasonably prepared. I think the last couple of years in the first races we didn't do very well, and that's the target because the championship starts straight away and every point in the end can be important. We need to have a competitive car from the first race onward – and finish the races.
"There's always a lot of focus on making the car reliable, because even if you have a car that is one second quicker than everybody else, if you never finish the races you will never score any points and you will not win the championship. But the speed has to be there, because I think to make a fast car reliable is probably easier than making a reliable car fast.
"That's why I think we are on a good track – I think this winter has been less troublesome for us and maybe it hasn't been that clear who is really ahead and who is behind."
He would not be drawn on the potential pecking order, however.
"It's difficult to judge," Vettel insisted. "Today I think we were surprised a bit by Mercedes, but I think it's quite close. It should be OK, we'll see in Australia."
The German said Michael Schumacher's time-topping lap for Mercedes today was impressive regardless of what specification the car was in when he sent it.
"Even if it was very low on fuel, you have to do the lap time first," Vettel said.
He agreed with teammate Mark Webber's assessment earlier this week that Ferrari should be regarded as the benchmark.
"They've done a lot of kilometers and I think they were quite quick," said Vettel. "The closer we are to them, the better we are in Australia."