Sebastian Vettel may have claimed pole position for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, but he knows all too well that being in front at the start of the race is no guarantee of being in front at the end.
The German was on pole for both the opening two races in 2010 and saw commanding leads erased by technical problems. Ploughing into the Albert Park gravel not only saw 25 points slip away, but also prolonged a miserable record 'down under' for the young German, who has yet to see the chequered flag in an Australian Grand Prix. In 2009, he was involved in a late race accident with Robert Kubica while defending a podium place, while his first Melbourne outing ended on the opening lap as the victim of a multi-car clash.
Even though he appeared dominant in qualifying, taking pole by a massive eight-tenths over McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, Vettel is well aware that everyone starts equal on race day, but is more confident in the reliability of this year's RB7.
"Well, I think the key is always to finish the race, to see the chequered flag," he said, "Last year, halfway through [the race], we had to retire, but I am quite confident [this year]. We had a very, very good preparation in the winter. We hardly suffered any reliability issues. The car was reliable from the first minute, and obviously not too slow, so things are looking good.
"But it is a hard race with the new tyres. It is a bit racing into the unknown. We kind of can guess how the tyres will behave but, in the end, we have to see how it is and also racing all the others, having probably more than one stop, it will be quite entertaining for us as well. [There are] a lot of things that we need to keep an eye on and focus on, but today was the base and couldn't have been any better.
"It was a bit of a funny winter. A lot of things changed, the cars changed a lot. Winter testing has been busy and we all try and work our way around the tyres, but coming here we were all surprised how well they were working on one lap and also what we have seen on Friday with a bit more fuel in the car was quite promising for Sunday. Coming here, since Friday onwards, we were surprised how good the tyres worked, so it should be fine tomorrow. We were a bit afraid after what we have seen, the degradation we have seen in Barcelona, so that's positive and, car-wise as well, we came here with a good feeling but never kind of knew where we would be.
"We have done the first step and starting the season that way is like you want to, and it is just a good sign for all of us in the team. We have been working very hard to get that new car, the RB7, where it is now, so I think it is mostly down to the people back in the factory plus the people 'down under' now preparing the car and making it ready. I think it was a pleasure today, quite fast, and I am very happy with the result. But if you look at the points, we have zero points just like everybody else, so we will keep our feet on the ground and see how we get on tomorrow."
If the margin in qualifying was bad news for his rivals, Vettel confirmed that Red Bull was constantly working to better the RB7 and dismissed suggestions that Albert Park may be a circuit that flattered the car.
"There are a lot of tracks to come, that's for sure," he admitted, "Last year, we were competitive here, the year before as well, so we seem to like the place. I like coming here as well, the track is a challenging one as it's quite rough in some places. It's a demanding track for the driver and the rhythm is right, so after one lap you feel happy, I would say, not that you don't feel happy at other tracks but I think here the satisfaction you get is quite good. You feel and you sense the speed around here, so that's something I enjoy a lot and obviously our car likes it as well. All in all, I think that's a good match. So far, it has been quite good.
"We know that we are probably not the fastest guys on the straights for couple of reasons but, in the corners, we tend to do not too bad. Even though the result looks for some people quite clear, you know, I think we don't get over-excited by what happened now. We have to keep on working and we want to improve the car. We have things coming up, good things coming up, so let's see what we can do.
"I think the bottom line is that we have a good package and we're happy to be where we are. We didn't really know, after the long winter, so that's a good and a positive surprise which we take on board. As I said, there are no points yet and there will be a lot of races - and there will be races where it will be difficult for us to beat some other teams - but we're not looking to those, we're going step by step."