Despite leading 109 of the 114 laps run so far in 2011, and leading the world championship by 24 points, Sebastian Vettel insists that Red Bull Racing needs to keep developing the RB7 if it is to remain at the head of the F1 pack.
The German made pole position look easy at Shanghai International Circuit, claiming his third top spot in qualifying with a new lap record of the Chinese facility, but acknowledged that, particularly when the calendar returns to Europe, the likes of McLaren, Ferrari, Renault and Mercedes will be going all-out to close the gap that currently exists between them and the front of the grid.
"Obviously, I'm very happy to be on pole position, and I think we can be as happy as we can be for tomorrow," Vettel admitted, having out-gunned McLaren's Jenson Button by seven-tenths of a second in final qualifying, "However, I think that, to stay where we are now, we have to keep pushing hard because I can assure you, people like McLaren, Mercedes or Ferrari, for sure they are not resting at this stage, so we have to keep pushing at least as hard as they do.
"Regarding improvements on the car, the team is pushing as hard as they can. We brought a few things here [but], overseas, it's pretty difficult to react. I think, once we go to Europe – and I think it's the same for everyone – then it's a bit easier to bring the parts, so it makes our life or the team's life much easier.
"We have to go step-by-step. As I said, teams like McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes, they are not as happy as they want to be and they are pushing very hard, so to stay where we are, we have to push harder than them to stay there, so we are all aware of that. Since halfway through 2009, we have had a very, very competitive car and we enjoy running at the front, but we still haven't forgotten how it feels to run at the back - not only finishing fourth, fifth, sixth, even further down.
"That's F1, it's competitive. Sometimes you might be in a comfortable situation, other times it will be very tight, and other times you will be behind - but, then again, there are so many races left and so many things can happen. I can't predict the future. As I say, I'm happy as I can be at this stage, but I can't predict the future. I'm confident that we will have good races in the future as well, but first of all, there's a race tomorrow."
Vettel acknowledges that Red Bull has yet to perfect the RB7, with team-mate Mark Webber appearing to suffer the bulk of its mechanical foibles. After deciding not to run its KERS system in Australia, the team had Webber's car lose the ability to use it in Malaysia, and the Australian then suffered again during practice and qualifying in China, resulting in him starting only 18th on the grid.
"Yeah, it's true Mark did not have a good day," the German confirmed, "This morning, he had some problems and, in qualifying, it was quite a shame as I think the car is quick enough. He has had a tough weekend so far, so it is a shame that we are not both up there. But I think he improved the last race pretty well from where he was after the first lap, so I hope he has a good race.
"Looking at us, our KERS was running and we were using it and we will be using it as well tomorrow from the start. It is important I guess against those two red or silver guys. We had a very good run on Friday so we were happy with the car we had, and with the long runs, also managing the tyres. As I said, we're as happy as we can be going into the race tomorrow, with all the components on the car - including KERS - so I was working without any problems today and yeah, I'm confident we will tomorrow.
"I think between Malaysia and here we have done another little step forward given that there is only very little time, so I'm looking forward to the race here."