Sebastian Vettel says he and his Red Bull Racing team cannot afford to throw away any more points this year, as he admits he is now in a fight for the World Championship.
Following an encouraging start to the season, the German has emerged as the biggest threat to the title-leading Brawn GP cars of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello. Vettel now thinks his team must start thinking of the bigger championship picture.
Having lost a certain third-place finish in the season-opening Australian GP, following a crash with Robert Kubica, Vettel concedes that his and the team's mindset from now on must be to make the most of every opportunity that comes their way.
"At every single race you can get 10 points maximum," he said at Barcelona ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix. "Every race is part of the championship and if you want to fight for it then you have to maximise the result in every single race.
"Of course we are fighting for the championship and we do have a very competitive car this year, so we have to use it. But, it is never easy. No one waves you through and says, 'OK, have a go and get some more points.'"
Vettel's early season form, allied to his victory in the Chinese Grand Prix, have ramped up interest in the Red Bull team – with team owner Dietrich Mateschitz also due to make an appearance on qualifying day at Barcelona. Although such focus increases the pressure on the team and Vettel, the German welcomes the extra demands.
"I think first of all it is a good thing – because that is the target," he said. "You always try and do the maximum, but of course the target is winning.
"We are in a very good position this year. I think we can improve a lot still, so there is a long, long way to go. If you talk about the championship, there are a lot of races left. So far nothing is decided for anyone. If you look at the points rankings, even though for me it is not very important at this stage of the year, you can see that Jenson has the best position now. But another four races and it might look completely different, so who knows?"
Vettel also dismissed suggestions from Button that the Red Bull RB5 is now the quickest car in the field.
"Well, I believe we have a strong car, yes," he said. "I think if you look back at the first four races overall, Brawn GP was still a bit quicker than us, so I would say they have had the quickest car so far.
"It will be very exciting this weekend to see after the first long break and being back in Europe who is able to pop some parts on the car to make a step forward. If all the teams do one step in the right direction then it matters who is able to do two. We will see.
"But I think also the first two races, if you look at our speed and performance, I think we were very competitive and very close – getting closer to Brawn."