Vettel 'starts from zero' in bid for fourth title
3 February 2013
Sebastian Vettel insisted that he is as hungry for a new title this year as he'd ever been, but added that this could prove to be his toughest season yet and that nothing could be taken for granted.
"It will be tough to beat Mark, tough to beat the other guys, the other teams," said Vettel at the launch of the new 2013 Red Bull car on Sunday. "The last three years have been very good for us, we managed to beat them - but there is no guarantee that we will keep winning.
"It all starts again from zero, a very tough challenge," he said, admitting that he definitely felt the pressure was on him to do well again in 2013. "It will be a long year again, tough challenges waiting for all of us.
"It will be tough to win a fourth world title, because the other teams will do everything to try and beat us," he added. ""We are racing against the best teams and drivers, [and] the best drivers are in the best teams."
Running through his chief rivals for this year's title, he started off naturally enough with the man who came closest to thwarting his third championship coming true in 2012 - Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.
"It's not a secret I respect him a lot as a driver and have a very high opinion of him," said Vettel. "But Mark is another, and Lewis, and so on. I usually don't like to name them because I might forget one!"
He had: Mark Webber helpfully leaned over and whispered in his team mate's ear, and Vettel's eyes lit up. "Jenson!", he added in a flash, with a apologetic smile.
Despite his prolific and precocious success against such strong competition, and while still aged only 25, Vettel himself seems oddly underrated by many who are quick to overlook or downplay his achievements in the sport: 26 races and 46 podiums from just 101 Grand Prix starts to go alongside that trio of titles. That can't help but irritate Vettel, even if only just a little; and perhaps it's one of the things that drives him on to bigger and better success year-on-year.
"It's nice looking back at the numbers and seeing what you've achieved, I think it's pretty special [but] pretty difficult to keep on doing and repeat," he said. "But the focus is not on continuing to write a certain story if you look at numbers and stuff like that.
"The focus is pretty much the same as every year, he insisted. "To start the season the right way, have a good first race in Melbourne and make sure that in testing we prepare the car as much as we can.
Vettel was in top form at the RB9 launch event at Milton Keynes on Sunday, looking relaxed and making jokes, although he admitted that it was important for him to simply unwind. Asked how he'd chilled out following the thrilling end of the 2012 season at Interlagos last November, Vettel raised chuckles from the crowd by listing DIY, "fixing things," "being in my own bed," and "making breakfast" as his thrilling off-season activities.
"It was important for me to enjoy being home," he explained. “We had a very strong finish last season, but it was hard as the season was so long."
But he could only bear so much downtime, and he admitted he was raring to get back to work now. "Pretty soon though I started training again, preparing for the new season!" he said.
Sure enough, he really did look as eager as any of the assembled journalists to get the covers off the new RB9, and once the new car was out in the open for all to see Vettel was as curious to prod and poke it as anybody in the room.
The new car might look very pretty, but at this point, Vettel actually has very little practical idea whether the car will be up to the job of delivering him his fourth world championship in 2013.
"Hopefully we are there [competing for the title], even though there is no guarantee for that," he said. "We know we doing pretty good in the last couple of years and as the regulations haven't changed that much it's probably the same teams as last year.
"I'm very excited because this is the first time I've seen the car in one piece," he revealed. "I've seen little bits, but it looks very nice, so now we'll get to see if it works as expected."
Known for giving his cars light-hearted names to match their personalities (starting with 'Julie' in 2008 and followed by Kate and Kate's Dirty Sister in 2009, Luscious Liz and Randy Mandy in 2010, then the famous Kinky Kylie in 2011 followed by Abbey last year) Vettel said it was far too early to think of one for the RB9.
"I haven't named it yet - we need to get to know each other first!" he pointed out, perfectly reasonably.
He'll start the process of getting to know the car more intimately on Tuesday, when Red Bull joins the other F1 teams for the first of four days of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Jerez in Spain. Vettel will be there - unlike his main rival Alonso.
"Testing is limited, but I don't think it is a big advantage to have a day more or less," said Vettel when asked about Alonso skipping the first week of tests and leaving Felipa Massa to do the honours for Ferrari instad. "Jerez is different in that it is a circuit you don't race on so I don't think you miss a lot if you don't test there."
But speaking fo himself, Vettel isn't one for sitting out a test session if there's one going. "I'm excited to get going again, to get back in the car, start testing and then go racing," said Vettel.
"Then, we'll finally find out where we are," he added. "Whether it's quick or not we will see, and then obviously it's up to us to make it reliable so that it survives the whole season."
So don't be too surprised if it turns out that the car in front in F1 turns out to be a Red Bull more often than not - it would hardly be the first time, after all.