Despite admitting that it was too early to read much into the relative performances of Red Bull and its rivals during the opening four days of testing in Spain, world champion Sebastian Vettel had a knowing look in his eye.

The German took over from team-mate Mark Webber for the final two days of the Jerez test and was immediately mixing it with the rest of the pacesetters. Although Nico Rosberg, in the 2011-spec Mercedes, and Romain Grosjean, in a low fuel Lotus, put in runs that were beyond the more conventionally set-up RB8, Vettel was happy with his initial performance.

The final day did not go quite as well, with the #1 machine sitting out a large part of the early running after an electrical gremlin forced the team into a precautionary engine change, but he worked his way back up the order after rejoining the fray, ending the day third overall once again.

"It feels good, believe me," he told the official F1 website after completing his first runs in the new car, "It's about time that we go racing again, [and] it's like being home."

Despite being satisfied with his own performances, however, Vettel admitted that he was not about to start predicting fortunes for the season ahead.

"If I were a psychic, I would be able to tell you right away, but I am not," he smiled, "I have done 96 laps and that is definitely not enough to figure out something as complicated as an F1 car. All I can say is that I feel comfortable and the gut feeling seems to signal green."

"It is definitely too early to say anything [about how RBR compares to the opposition]. When you go out at the right time, with the right tyres and low fuel, you can set a good time. My guess is that [at the next test] in Barcelona, we will see what the other cars are made of.

"You cannot go into a season on staged test lap times. I think that teams that are able to do a lot of mileage without issues will be in good shape. Lotus look pretty good from what I've seen. They've been fast and showed a consistently good performance. Ferrari and McLaren are the big question marks - and maybe so are we...."

Asked to describe the difference between the RB7 that carried him to his second title in 2011 and the RB8, which has had to be designed to take into account of various regulation changes, he admitted that he still had to learn all the nuances of the latest machine.

"We have less grip than we had last season, and I think all of us need some time to adapt to that," he reasoned, "If you take the cars from last year, and the year before, they were basically built around the rear with the double diffuser in 2010 and the blown exhaust last year. That is almost completely gone this year. Yes, we still have an exhaust, but it is almost irrelevant. You realise that when braking, when accelerating and when going into the corners. The only solution to this is mileage.

"Less grip means that we cannot go so fast in the corners and it doesn't allow the tyres to work as well as they used to, but it is pretty cold here and, last year at the tests, we had the same issues with the tyres, which was caused by the cold temperatures.

"Once the season started and we arrived in a 'normal' race weekend climate, everything worked very well, so there's no reason to panic. But you probably have to work a bit differently and adapt your driving style. That's all I can say after only one day in the car."

The teething troubles naturally cost Vettel some of the track time he craved to get on top of the new characteristics, but he was happy to find that the RB8 had pace to play with.

"We had some minor issues over the course of the day - nothing serious, but as it is testing we must dig to the very bottom of them," he noted, "If we were racing, the maxim would be to carry on until it breaks! But you can work on the reliability - a reliable car without speed will very likely never be a winner!"


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