As Vettel took 6th on the grid in Australia last weekend, the critics were already lining up to predict the fall of Red Bull and the end of the supremacy of both their car, and their top driver.
However, when Vettel snatched second place from Hamilton with some fortuitous timing of the safety car and maintained his position to the end of the race, there were signs that the German driver could still be considered the favourite for the title this season. Vettel himself was happy with the race, and thinks that the new RB8 that the Red Bull team have developed still has plenty more potential to unlock in the coming Grand Prixs.
The reigning world champion must have been shocked at finding himself so far down the starting order after his record breaking 19 pole positions last season, but it gave him the chance to show that he is perfectly able to overtake and race, rather than just lead from the front. The Malaysian Grand Prix looks as though it might favour Red Bull’s car with its fast sweeping corners, and Vettel thinks that a few more races are needed to perfect the RB8 setup.
“I think we need track time to really understand what is going on in the car,” said Vettel. “I don’t think we have a problem in the car as in we don’t understand what is going on, or the front end is weak or the rear is a disaster. It is fine tuning here and there. We have seen it in previous years that fine-tuning can make quite a difference if you know exactly what your car needs, to fine-tune it towards the race or qualifying or whatever you may need.”
Having enjoyed such dominancy over the previous two seasons, it is good to see Red Bull F1 again competing on a more even playing field with McLaren, and Vettel seems to be relishing the new challenge presented.
“I think we are motivated and hungry to make sure that McLaren doesn’t keep the upper hand but for now you have to accept that they had a very good weekend and a very good preparation in the winter, so we’ll see what happens this weekend.”