Sebastian Vettel has admitted it is unlikely Red Bull will be any closer to Mercedes this weekend in China, although he does expect the Milton Keynes-based outfit to make a step forward.

Vettel has only scored 23 points so far this season, and currently languishes down in sixth position in the Drivers?' Championship, 38 points off current leader, Nico Rosberg.

Last time out in Bahrain, the German had to settle for sixth and he isn't expecting to do that much better at the Shanghai International Circuit this Sunday.

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?"It is a big gap at the moment [to Mercedes],?" Vettel told reporters, including, ahead of the fourth round in the 2014 F1 World Championship. ?"I think Bahrain looked very bad for everybody, but Mercedes. Here it could be a little bit different. Historically, though, you have to say it [Shanghai] is one of the circuits that have favoured Mercedes in the last couple of years. So you have to expect they can be strong because of the nature of the track and they will be strong because they are in very good shape right now. It will be difficult. They are the favourites going in.?"

"But for us, I think we made some improvements at the test [in Bahrain], with both the car and also with our [Renault] Power Unit. All-in-all I think we should expect a step here. How big the step is we need to wait and see,?" he continued.

?"It will be a massive surprise, however, if we could close down the gap here. I think you have to be realistic and go with the result of the first couple of races, which is more or less a second per lap [difference]. To close that in one go is hopefully not impossible, I wish we could do that, but, as I said, you have to stay realistic. It is very difficult.?"

"We will try our best to be as close as we can,?" Vettel added. ?"What's the best we can do? Probably, if we can be in the top five that is good for us - and where we are right now [in terms of competitiveness].?"

Meanwhile, asked if he has been taken aback by the pace of new team-mate, Daniel Ricciardo, Vettel said it was ?'not a surprise?': "I am happy for him and I think he is doing a very good job. Obviously we both try to do our best. On my side I am not yet where I want to be. But there are probably a lot of reasons behind that. But it is good to see he is pushing hard and it is also good to have a benchmark.?"

So how difficult has it been so far in 2014, given he has been use to so much success over the last four years?

?"It?'s been a big challenge. Not so much probably what people expect in terms of results. I don?'t mind finishing fourth, sixth or eighth, but it depends how you finish. That seems to be the biggest challenge right now,?" stated the four-time F1 world champion.

?"I am not where I want to be yet in terms of how I feel inside the car. But then again we have had a lot of changes and a lot of new stuff to play with and a lot of new stuff to adapt to. We are still learning as well with the car and that seems to be the biggest challenge right now,?" he concluded.