Even though he is an almost unanimous favourite for success, Sebastian Vettel insists that, with six world champions in this year's F1 field, the 2012 season could be hard to predict.
The German has topped the majority of polls picking the most likely world champion, but maintains that pre-season testing has shown very little to suggest that the balance of power lies with any one team. Indeed, the Lotus team set the 'timesheet pace' more often than any other, but long run analysis suggests that Vettel's Red Bull operation may again hold the upper hand. Despite being joined by fellow champions Michael Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, however, the two-time defending champion believes that teams not usually included among the list of potential winners could also be poised to spring a surprise.
"This year, it is not so easy to tell what could happen, as it seems to be very close and hard to pinpoint which team looks strong," Vettel told the official F1 website, "[It's] unpredictable. It might be all of [the champions] or none, or even someone completely different. Mercedes is definitely closer this year, so Nico [Rosberg] and Michael. Michael has enough titles for both of them! It could be very interesting or it could be very boring. We don't know yet, luckily. As they say, when the flag drops the bullsh*t stops.
"I have to say that even last year, it was much closer than the results in the end may have shown. If you are ahead of Jenson by only nine-thousandths of a second, this is not a big gap. Still, this is only the beginning of the season. It is March now and we finish in November, so there are a lot of races to finish."
Even though he may be unwilling to predict his chances of success, however, Vettel has warned his rivals that he has no intention of backing off in 2012.
"Personally, I think that we have a good car," he confirmed, "although we need to find out where we stand compared to the other teams, which is the same I guess for everyone else. During testing, it was a little bit of up and down for everyone, if you look at the timesheets, which makes it a bit hard to predict.
"The situation is a little bit like last year. Of course it means a lot to us, winning the championship. If you have done it once, it means that no one can take it away from you anymore, but that doesn't mean that we wouldn't want to do it again. The only reason for us being here is because we want to win. Besides the nice atmosphere and the nice people, we are here to race and ultimately to win."