Sebastian Vettel says 'anything can happen' as he refuses to give up on fifth title
Red Bull confirms team's new car will be "very different" this weekend
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 13/03/14 11:45am
Having started the year as the overwhelming 5/4 favourite to win the Drivers' World Championship again, Vettel's odds have lengthened 7/2 contender behind Lewis Hamilton in the eyes of the bookmakers following a profoundly disappointing performance from the RB10 during winter testing that was in sharp contrast to the serene progress of Mercedes' pacesetting W05.
With Red Bull's sleek but sickly new car appearing to be neither fast nor reliable in the three pre-season events at Jerez and Bahrain, a top-ten finish is thought likely to be the extent of Vettel's realistic ambition in this weekend's season-opening Australian GP.
Yet the German is adamant that, even if he cannot compete for victory in Melbourne, he can still challenge for the title again, and bristled at the suggestion that a record-equalling fifth consecutive championship was already a remote possibility.
"That's not fair to say because it is a long year. Our preparation hasn't been ideal, and we are not in the best position for this race, but in the championship there is a long way to go," the German retorted during Thursday's press conference.
"Two years back [in Australia], Fernando [Alonso] was on the grid 1.5 seconds to pole position and he was very close to beating us to the title in the final race. Anything can happen."
Nevertheless, Vettel's title ambition is likely to rest on the effect of the new package Red Bull are poised to introduce this weekend with Friday's practice sessions set to be used as an unofficial test running by the World Champions as they seek a cure for their new car's many ailments.
"It will be a very different car," Vettel confirmed. "We had a lot of problems during the test so we didn't get to test a lot of stuff and we'll hopefully do more running here and put the parts on the car that we think are better for overall performance."
By contrast, Ferrari will, according to Alonso, run "exactly the same car" this weekend that they did in the winter-closing Bahrain test of two weeks ago, while McLaren, whose form tailed off the longer testing went on, are set to try out several new design components.
Yet it is on the RB10 that all eyes will be fixed on during Friday's practice sessions as the World Champions attempt to recover the ground they lost to Mercedes and Williams over the winter.
"There are a lot of things to solve and unfortunately you can't solve them overnight," added Vettel. "We are just going step-by-step, but at the moment it's a bit unknown where we are. It's not a secret that you need very, very strong reliability to be a title contender. I'm looking forward to Sunday to see where we are."