Sebastian Vettel admits it is difficult to know where Red Bull stands going into the F1 season as the Jerez pre-season test heads towards its conclusion.
The defending champions go into the new season being viewed as the team to beat after a dominant showing last year, although a number of rivals teams will hope to reap the benefits of aggressive designs on their 2011 challengers in an attempt to wrestle the title away from the Milton Keynes-based team.
With team's running varying programmes during testing, Vettel admits it is difficult to know what each team is doing as work continues on track ahead of the Bahrain season-opener and with that in mind, he admitted it was tough to tell how Red Bull currently compares to its rivals.
“It is almost impossible to know where we stand,” he told the official F1 website, “especially during the day it is almost impossible to learn what programme and what tyres everybody is on so we definitely focus on ourselves. In the evening, when the running is over, for sure you look for information from the other teams, but hardly at all during the time when the session is on.”
Vettel was speaking after his day in the car in Saturday, with much of the focus being on the new-for-2011 Pirelli tyres, and he admits that there is work to be done to discover how best to get maximum time out of the new rubber.
“The tyres are quite hard for everybody to read so you try your best to get your car set up in a mode that supports them - especially in the longer runs,” he said. “Some drivers have been able to do some fast laps, others concentrated more on the mileage and I have clearly belonged to the second category. I did normal test work - trying to bring the car my way and the tyres to that of the car. No miracles, nothing sensational, just hard work.
“At one point - sooner or later - they degrade and then it starts to get very slippery. Then you have reached the critical point. That's why you try to work on the car to make them last longer. My guess is that everybody is working in that direction.”