It's been so long since Red Bull last looked this much at risk going into a new F1 world championship campaign that it was a genuine shock for everyone to see just how badly their pre-season testing went.

The lack of problem-free running in the three test sessions means that world champion Sebastian Vettel has absolutely no idea how he and team mate Daniel Ricciardo can expect to fare next weekend when the lights go out at Albert Park in Melbourne, Australia for the first race of 2014.

"We didn't do as much running as we would have liked in testing this year, so we have work to do in Melbourne," Vettel admitted as he prepared to jet off halfway around the world.

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"It's hard to know where we are,' he conceded. "It's fair to say that we're not the favourites to win and we have to catch up with others that have completed more mileage, but we'll do our best with the great people that we have working for the team.

"We have achieved a lot together and I know everyone is working flat out as normal," he added.

The tensions over the disastrous testing performances have led to rumours of a possible split between Red Bull and engine suppliers Renault - and possibly even a rift between Vettel and his team, something the German ace has flat-out denied.

"I'm not a guy who runs away when it gets difficult. That's the case both in my work and privately," he said just before the weekend. "Of course there are always those who want to tell you the grass is greener somewhere else, but we shouldn't forget the values of honesty, loyalty, the handshake.

"This should apply especially when things are not going your way," he added.

And regardless of the problems with the team's development process for 2014, Vettel is pleased to be getting back in the race car and returning to the thing he loves doing more than anything else - competing in Grand Prix races.

"F1 racing is something that I love and I can't wait to get going," he said. "It will be good to get to the first race.

"It's a good event to start the season and there's always a great atmosphere," he said, his excitement and enthusiasm building. "We often have unpredictable weather in Melbourne and on Sunday we have a later race start than at other events.

"Looking to the track, Turn 12 is important and fast and I like the start into the Jones chicane, where the track is very narrow," he added. "It's great to be starting the season next week!"