All eyes on Red Bull's 'very different' car
RED Bull will put a "very different" car on the track for the Australian Grand Prix from the model which disappointed during the last test in Bahrain, reigning champion Sebastian Vettel revealed yesterday.
The German, bidding for a fifth consecutive Formula One drivers' title, goes into Sunday's season-opener at Albert Park with his team scrambling to come to grips with the new hybrid-turbo era in F1.
Red Bull, one of four teams using the troubled Renault power unit, were unable to finish a race simulation for either Vettel or his new Australian teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, and badly lagged rivals Mercedes and Ferrari in terms of mileage.
"It will be a very different car," the 26-year-old told reporters.
"Obviously, we had a lot of problems during the tests, we didn't get to test a lot of stuff and we hope to do some more running here."
Red Bull's struggles to adapt to the new V6 engine have given rival teams hope of ending their four-year stranglehold on the constructors' and drivers' championships, or at a minimum, end the German's run of nine consecutive race victories.
Vettel, who has not lost a race since July, said little to lift the gloom hanging over his team's garage, but was adamant that just finishing the race was not the limit of Red Bull's ambitions in Melbourne.
"We know that we are not in the best shape yet. There are a lot of things we need to sort out," said Vettel, a 2011 winner at Albert Park and third last year.
"Unfortunately, you can't solve all of them overnight. We'd love to but we can't.
"It's no secret you need very, very strong reliability to be a title contender.
"I'm going out of here not trying to just make it round, I'm going round here to push to the maximum and do the best I can, and then we'll see where we are and how far we get.
"The target, for sure, is to finish, and the target for sure is to finish in the best possible position."
When asked by reporters who he thought would win the season opener, he replied: "For this race, probably Mercedes, based on winter testing.
"For the season, after three or four races, we'll know a little bit more."
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, the 2008 world champion, is the nominal pre-race favourite and he appeared to be sizing up German teammate Nico Rosberg as his big rival.
"It's very technical this year and everyone is in the same boat and everyone is trying to see where the advantage is going to be between the two drivers," the Briton said, referring to Rosberg.
"From race to race, I think you're going to see one time he's ahead, and another time I'm ahead, the same that you saw last year. The goal is to be ahead on the track."
Ferrari are another team feeling their way after inconclusive winter testing but with a super-competitive driving team in former world champions Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen.
"It's very difficult to tell how competitive we are at the moment and we will know some answers in the next 24 to 48 hours," said Spanish driver Alonso.
"I think the car itself and the technology that Formula One has brought this year is a little complex for everyone and we are learning and developing the car every day."
The F1 cars take to the circuit today for the first of two practice sessions, ahead of tomorrow's qualifying for grid positions for Sunday's race.