Sebastian Vettel insists that he is not worried about his car falling prey to the sort of mechanical gremlins that best Red Bull Racing team-mate Mark Webber on day two of the European Grand Prix weekend, despite both cars running a raft of development parts.
Webber dropped out of qualifying at the first phase after DRS failure compounded a lack of running in morning practice when both his RB8's brakes and hydraulics needed attention. Vettel, meanwhile, made it through to Q3, and then produced a lap four-tenths faster than anyone else to claim pole position with his only timed run. Asked whether he was concerned that his luck may not hold through what is expected to be a high-temperature race, the German admitted that, while not worried, he expected it to be a tough examination of his car.
"Obviously, it's the first time [we've raced with the parts] because the first time they were on the car was on Friday and, since Friday, there was no grand prix," he pointed out, "It makes it difficult, but there's always a first time for everything. Obviously, we try to build the parts so that they are reliable so, as I said, I'm not worried. I think it will be tough, it will be hot, but it's not the worst race of the year for the car in terms of the ambient conditions, so I'm quite confident."
Vettel was equally certain that, without his problems, his team-mate could have been close to him on the grid.
"It's a bit of a shame, because the potential is there," he insisted, "I think Mark would have had a solid qualifying, and we would have qualified in the same area with a normal qualifying for him. But he had a problem with the brakes, I think, this morning and I'm not sure what happened this afternoon. It's really a shame because you always hope for the team as well to get the best possible result but, nevertheless, I think the race is long tomorrow, the pace was there on Friday for him as well, so I'm confident he will come back."
With Webber starting only 19th, it removes one potential threat to Vettel's bid to become the first two-time winner in 2012, but the German admits that there are plenty of others to be wary of.
"We've tried a lot, we've been pushing very hard, to be honest, [but] I think it's difficult this year," he conceded, "I think we see everyone is very close to each other and everyone is pushing. If you look at McLaren, if you look at Ferrari, if you look at Mercedes, the big teams have more resources, probably, to bring new parts than other teams and they have been bringing more than a couple. But, nevertheless, other teams are up there.
"Force India was incredibly quick all weekend - yesterday, I thought it was just a surprise but, even on very low fuel, it would have been a very competitive lap time and they confirmed it today. I think, in the end, they ran out of tyres but, in terms of lap times, they weren't far off in Q2.
"It would be nice [to win], no doubt, [but] I think it's going to be a difficult race to predict. We have seen too much this year, to be honest, to sit here on Saturday afternoon and predict what's going to happen. I think it's probably easier to guess the result in tonight's football than [the race] tomorrow. It's going to be hot tomorrow – a bit hotter than today even - so there will be obviously a lot of cars to look out for. I think Ferrari has been very competitive. Williams have been quick yesterday on their long runs. Lotus, I think they've proven in Bahrain, the first time we had hot conditions, that they're up there. So, I think, this year, obviously grid position is important but maybe not as important as it was in the past."
The Red Bull, which has already been the subject of a couple of legal challenges to its design this season, features a new floor - amongst other things - in Valencia, but there are already whispers that that too runs very close to the limit of the regulations.
According to TotalF1.com
, the new floor 'produces a kind of double diffuser' effect', while 'veteran photographer Darren Heath said he heard ... "what sounds like off-throttle blowing” coming from the car' while he was shooting trackside during Friday practice.