Sebastian Vettel has warned his F1 rivals that he is neither feeling the heat or struggling to harness the potential of Red Bull's RB8 as the championship rumbles on towards another Asia double-header in China and Bahrain.
A year ago, the German was sitting pretty on top of the championship standings, having won in both Australian and Malaysia, but the story so far in 2012 could not be more different, as he lies sixth overall, some 17 points off surprise leader Fernando Alonso, yet to win a race and only scoring in the season-opener.
More points would surely have come Vettel's way at Sepang had it not been for the much-reported clash with backmarker Narain Karthikeyan that led to an outburst that prompted observers to suggest he was feeling the pressure of no longer being the sport's number one protagonist. With the spat firmly in his rear view mirror, however, Vettel is determined to prove the critics wrong, and believes that he can return to winning ways as soon as round three in Shanghai.
Speaking to AFP
while in Paris to collect yet another accolade for his 2011 title-winning performance, the young German insisted that, with RBR working hard to close the gap on pacesetter McLaren, he could be ready to challenge at the same circuit where he landed the team's first-ever F1 success back in 2009.
"I'm confident for the next two races," Vettel insisted, "We had a good race in Australia while, in Malaysia, it was a bit chaotic. It's a shame I didn't get a point there, [but] there are a lot of races to come and should be in good shape."
With Red Bull heading into the 2012 season supposedly as the team to beat once again, McLaren's performance in claiming both poles and victory in Australia came as something of a turn-up. As RBR continues to sort its RB8, meanwhile, its rivals will look to make hay, although Vettel warns them not to expect an easy ride at either of the next two rounds.
"I've had a couple of hours in our simulator in order to prepare for China and Bahrain - now we have to prove it on the circuits themselves," he noted.