Sebastian Vettel has admitted that next weekend's Monaco Grand Prix offers perhaps the best chance for Red Bull Racing to end Mercedes' unbeaten start to the 2014 F1 season.
The four-time reigning world champion has been on the receiving end of the sort of treatment he usually hands out in 2014, with Nico Rosberg and, latterly, Lewis Hamilton proving unbeatable at the wheel of the W05 Hybrid. The Briton claimed his fourth win of the season – and fourth in a row after retiring from pole position in the Melbourne season-opener – in Barcelona last Sunday, taking over from his team-mate at the top of the standings.
With the RB10 already underpowered compared to its main rival, Vettel also seems to have attracted the majority of the misfortune heading RBR's way, allowing new team-mate Daniel Ricciardo to notch up some impressive results without actually overhauling the German in the standings. Next up, however, is the one race on the calendar where the formbook can potentially be torn up and thrown away.
“I think yes [we can fight with Mercedes on a track like Monaco],” Vettel, a winner in the Principality in 2011, said, “It is difficult to predict but, at Monaco, perhaps you need a little bit less power - you still need power, but probably a little bit less than at other places - or maybe there's some rain, which could help us as well. So there's always a chance to beat everybody.”
The problems at Red Bull did not disappear with the chance to test, as reserve driver Sebastien Buemi suffered a gearbox problem that ultimately sidelined both drivers well into day two, but Vettel believes that the rest of the two-day session proved useful.
“We spent all night and all morning fixing the problem but I think, in the end, the afternoon was still very good for us,” he insisted, “We could do a lot of laps during the time we had but, sure, it was not a perfect day
“We've not really [tested anything special for Monaco] and, in terms of tyres, we used the same tyres as the [recent] race weekend, so I think it was more useful for us to try and understand more of the car in general, rather than prepare for one single race.”
Although his Spanish weekend was one of widely contrasting fortunes – starting with him sitting out opening practice after his car stopped with just four laps on the board, and continuing with a gearbox problem in FP3 that not only cut short his session but also meant that he'd take a five-place grid penalty for changing the offending item – Vettel managed to charge from 15th to fourth.
“I think Sunday was already a step in the right direction,” he claimed, “Obviously, last weekend was a very short weekend from my side, with very few laps, but it was definitely a much better feeling in the car to previous races.”
Although his Monaco results haven't always been the best – and despite knowing that both Mercedes drivers have won in the Principality, including Nico Rosberg's win over him last year – Vettel will be looking to kick-start his campaign when the Monaco weekend gets next Thursday (22 May).