Sebastian Vettel has moved to play down suggestions that Red Bull Racing has got a better handle on Formula 1's new 2009 regulations than most as the season start approaches apace – but he did admit that his target for the year ahead is to repeat his maiden victory from 2008.
The German became the youngest grand prix-winner in the sport's 59-year official history when he triumphed for Scuderia Toro Rosso at Monza last September aged just 21 years and 74 days, stunning the paddock with a flawless drive in treacherous conditions and in an unfancied car to boot. It was only his 22nd start in the top flight.
That earned Vettel promotion to the Red Bull 'senior' squad for his second full campaign at the pinnacle of international motorsport, and since its debut at Jerez early last month, the new, Adrian Newey-penned and Renault powered RB5 has certainly been turning heads during pre-season testing – and not only for its looks.
Indeed, some are already contending that the Milton Keynes-born challenger will turn out to be the surprise of the season – and the car that finally secures RBR its breakthrough from midfield runner into genuine contender in its fifth year of competition.
“It's a very good impression so far,” confirmed the man from Heppenheim, speaking to the official F1 website. “It is still not one hundred per cent, but the car so far is quite reliable, fresh out-of-the-box since we started here in Jerez at the beginning of February. It seems to go better and better.
“Actually, the first feeling was right, as straightaway I was pretty happy with the car's balance. We have had some modifications [since then], but nothing big. For the next test, we will get some new parts but nothing dramatic.
“Our focus right now is to make the car reliable and sort out the small problems that we had. The saying goes that if you want to finish first, first you have to finish, so the paramount factor is reliability – and here we are going according to plan. We are not perfect yet, but we are not far off.
“The most important thing is that the first feeling was right and the performance seems to be decent. Now it is all about making the car reliable, and then we'll see.
“We will not run [KERS – Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems] for at least the first three races. We tested it a lot and we are testing it now, as we need to eliminate all possible uncertainties in case it is an advantage to use it and you need some experience. At the moment I really feel it is difficult to say if it is quicker or not, and one lap is always different compared to a whole race distance.