Sebastian Vettel has attempted to play down the significance of Red Bull Racing deciding to skip the first Formula One group test in Valencia next month, claiming that there is still plenty of time to ensure that the RB6 is competitive.
The German, who is tipped to be a title contender after finishing second to Jenson Button in 2009, told the official F1 website that, while there was a tinge of frustration at not being able to join his rivals on track with the team's 2010 machine, he accepted the decision to focus attention on its development elsewhere.
"Sure, it's disappointing, but we will have twelve days of testing for the new car, which is plenty of time," he insisted, "It's much better to spend time in the windtunnel and on the design of the new car, so I am perfectly happy with this."
While Red Bull proved to be the closest thing to a challenger to the Brawn team last season, the blame for its failure to push its rival even closer was laid, by some, at the door of engine supplier Renault. Both Vettel and team-mate Mark Webber has concerns over their dwindling engine supply towards the end of the campaign and, although both managed to get to Abu Dhabi without penalty - indeed, winning each of the final two events - Vettel is confident that there will be no problem this season.
"It's correct that we had some engine problems during last season, and there is no way to get around that, but I know Renault looked into them and, towards the end of the season, we didn't have any more issues," he pointed out, "Please don't forget that, even though everybody predicted us to have an additional engine change and to receive a penalty, we did not. So, while there was nobody in a worse position, we didn't lose ground because of it and could continue to fight for the championship. We have all worked hard over the winter, not only at Renault and Viry, and have analysed what went wrong during the season, so that it doesn't happen again."
The young German was also blamed for allowing his inexperience to get the better of him at times, blunting his challenge to Button with errors like those committed in Australia and Turkey. But, with RBR and Renault both promising to make up for their mistakes, so Vettel insists that he will have learned valuable lessons for 2010.
"It's my target to win the championship as soon as possible - it is why I am here and, as always, I will give my best and fight until the very end," he stressed, "I have a very strong team, which supports me 100 per cent, and we really have a great atmosphere within the team. In Renault, we have one of the strongest engine partners on board. They are also one of the best in terms of fuel consumption, so I am sure the car will be very competitive. So far, there are only positives, so let's see.
"Out on the circuit everybody is your enemy, it doesn't matter who it is. In the end, you have to beat them all. [The new points system] will also force drivers to continue to race, even when they have problems, because now there are points available all the way down to tenth place. But, as far as I understand, it wouldn't have changed the outcome of the past couple of championships. In any case, winning and scoring points regularly is the best way to fight for the cup.
"Clearly I would like to be number one, but it is much more than that. A season is very long and you need to work hard to reach your own goals. I want to win the world championship, which would also mean that I would be the German frontrunner. But I'm not interested in being the best of the Germans - I want to be the best of all. 2009 was a good year for me, and now I am working very hard to make this new season even better."