Australian Grand Prix winner Sebastian Vettel has admitted that he does not expect to have it as easy in every race this season, despite appearing to have the opening round under control from the start of qualifying.
The German topped every timed session on Saturday afternoon and took pole by an astonishing eight-tenths of a second, before leading from start to finish in the race and coming home 22 seconds clear of Lewis Hamilton. Admittedly, the McLaren driver was hampered by a broken floor on his MP4-26, but Vettel's performance had critics predicting a boring season despite the advent of KERS and adjustable rear wings to improve the chances of on-track action.
The reigning world champion, while savouring his third successive victory, insisted that, while it may have appeared easy, he did not expect the opposition to be trailing so far behind in the coming races, saying that he expected McLaren, Renault, Ferrari and Mercedes to all threaten his position.
"Yesterday was a very good day for us, and the gap [in qualifying] was big to Lewis and McLaren but, nevertheless, it is a long, long season," he stressed, "I don't really like the word dominant at this stage to be honest. I try to keep saying to the team that we have to keep our feet on the floor. It was a very good race today - a lot of points and I think we enjoyed ourselves, which is even more important - but it is a long year, and a lot of things can happen.
"This is a special track, so we have to stay focused for the next one and then the next one. After this comes race two, then race three, so [we're going] step-by-step really, trying to keep on doing what we are doing now. I think it will be very close, sooner or later. Giving you some names on some teams now is obvious. Those guys who are sitting next to me, plus Ferrari is always very strong. Obviously, Mercedes did not have a great start, but I think they will come back and will be stronger this year than last year.
"It was important to finish, which we did not really succeed [in doing] last year, so big, big compliments again to all the people back in the factory. The car was quick from the first moment on, which we know now, but also very reliable. That is the key. It is the first time I have finished the Australian Grand Prix as well, so I am really, really happy."
Even with his margin of victory in Melbourne, Vettel insisted that it hadn't been an easy afternoon.
"Obviously, it was a good race and, in the end, things calmed down a bit," he reflected, "Lewis didn't push as hard anymore, so we tried to control the last part of the race, but I don't think it was an easy race.
"The start was crucial and, being on the clean side, I had a very good getaway, but I did not know it was enough until I saw that Lewis and Mark [Webber] were battling for position, so I was clear and then, in the first stint, more or less tried to hold the gap. But we saw how quickly you reach the 'cliff' and the tyres start to see some more degradation. Lewis caught up, we came in, and I think it was the right timing - just. I could not really have done more laps.
"After my stop, it was crucial to get past Jenson [Button], which I could do immediately, so that was very, very important. After that, the second part of the race, I did not know what was going on behind Lewis - if he was under pressure or not. With him dropping off, in terms of the amount of pressure he put on, I could control the situation a bit better. All in all, it was a very good race, [but there were] a lot of things to learn today and we need to have another look at the race and move forwards from here."