Sebastian Vettel has thanked readers for having voted him their top Formula 1 driver of 2008 - and has promised to work hard to impress just as much again in 2009.

The German became the top flight's youngest-ever pole position sitter and race-winner when he stormed to a stunning victory in a wet Italian Grand Prix at Monza back in September, and he has graduated from Scuderia Toro Rosso to 'parent' concern Red Bull Racing for next season.

Though STR ended the 2008 campaign with ten points more than RBR - a situation made to look worse than it actually was, claims Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, by Vettel's sheer brilliance [see separate story - click here] - the man from Heppenheim is adamant that his move is not a step backwards.

"I don't consider it as a step back," he insisted, speaking exclusively to Radio during Wembley's annual Race of Champions at the weekend. "I believe Red Bull has more potential, especially for the future. I think it's definitely the team to go for, and I don't regret my decision."

Vettel explained that he is settling into the Milton Keynes-based outfit 'step-by-step', and dismissed suggestions that the bulk of the pre-season testing duties have now fallen onto his shoulders following team-mate Mark Webber's cycling accident in Tasmania last month that has left the Australian with a broken leg.

"It will take some time," he acknowledged of his acclimatisation to his new surroundings, "but we have some more testing this week and then we'll see. We should have enough time to sort out everything.

"Obviously for next year the testing regulations are different, but as soon as I'm in the car we try to work. If Mark is not ready early enough then I'll have to take over, but that's normal I think."

The 21-year-old was unwilling to remark on the raft of new cost-cutting regulations announced by governing body the FIA last week - stating that 'there are a lot of discussions at the moment and we have to see what exactly it will mean in the future; I think at this stage it's too early to comment' - but he did stress that the appearance of the cars with the 2009 aerodynamic package is ultimately unlikely to change much from that which shocked observers at the Barcelona test last month.

"Close to that, obviously," he suggested of how the cars will look in Melbourne in March. "You already know how the cars will look, but in the end what I care about is how the cars will feel. So far I haven't had any practice yet, so we'll have to wait for our new car."

Non-committal about his chances of adding to his victory tally with RBR next year, Vettel added finally that he was thrilled to have been chosen by readers as the best driver of the 2008 F1 campaign [see separate story - click here] - and has vowed to 'work hard' to do even better in 2009.

"Thank you very much," he reflected. "I didn't know that. Yeah, it's nice to hear. In the end, all kinds of awards are a confirmation that what you've done has been good, and we'll work hard [in 2009] so our chances become even better."

by Russell Atkins



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