F1: Sebastian Vettel admits Red Bull are having a 'bloody difficult time' in quest to achieve record-equalling fifth consecutive championship
Red Bull have struggled to adapt to their RB10 in pre-season but Vettel says no one is upset and the mechanics are working around the clock to improve the car
Thursday 06 March 2014
In a bid to become only the second driver in Formula One history to win five consecutive world titles, it would appear Sebastian Vettel and his Red Bull team are going to have to dig far deeper than they have ever had to do previously.
There are many out there who will still argue Vettel lucked into his four championship triumphs, that he just happened to drive the best machinery at the right time, and that in Mark Webber he did not have a team-mate who was consistent enough to push him to the wire at every race.
However, the fact is Vettel remains by far the most successful driver in the last decade, and yes, whilst the Red Bulls he has tamed over the last four years have been outstanding technical creations, his talent alone has powered it to those titles, along with 34 victories and 40 pole positions.
Regardless, critics have long stated 'Well let's see how Vettel would fare in a lesser team'.
To some degree, those demands are due to be answered this season for whilst Vettel will again be in a Red Bull, the machinery beneath him on this occasion would appear to leave a lot to be desired.
Of the 10 teams that attended all three pre-season tests - Lotus sat out the opener in Jerez due to a late build with their car - only Marussia completed fewer kilometres than Red Bull.
The advent of the new regulations has led to the Milton Keynes-based marque being beset with problems, some of their own making, some that can be placed at the door of power-unit supplier Renault.
As it stands, with the season-opening grand prix in Australia just over a week away, Vettel and Red Bull will be fortunate to see the chequered flag in Melbourne.
All too often over the 12 days of pre-season testing in Jerez and Bahrain there was the sight of the car returning to the garage on the back of a flat-bed truck under covers after breaking down on track.
Not once were Red Bull able to complete a race-distance simulation, which is just one of their many concerns as the new campaign looms large on the horizon.
So, after all these years of success, now we will see what Vettel is made of, just what kind of champion he is in the face of adversity.
Team principal Christian Horner has already rejected suggestions the 26-year-old threw a 'hissy fit' in Spain as the car barely made it out on to the circuit.
Vettel has readily conceded to being "annoyed" at his lack of time behind the wheel, but rightly put things into perspective.
"It's worse for the mechanics, crawling around all day on the floor putting the car together for the umpteenth time," Vettel said.
"But I don't see anybody getting upset, even if it is a hard time at the moment of course.
"Everybody is fine. It's just a bloody difficult time because it's a difficult car to work on."
The gremlins have crawled all over the RB10, and there have been a litany of issues, chief amongst them being overheating.
Technical guru Adrian Newey has squeezed a far more complex package in underneath the chassis that there has barely been any room for the car to breathe, and consequently it often ground to a halt.
Another concern for Vettel is even if Red Bull manages to get on top of their issues sometime soon, the car will be found wanting in other areas.
"We cannot do the times the guys at the top are doing for various reasons. The speed is not there compared to some other teams," said Vettel.
"But at the moment we have much bigger problems than just the pace.
"Because we have a lot of problems we have not been able to find a rhythm yet.
"We don't know ourselves how good the car is as we have not done enough running, although the little running we have had has been quite promising.
"I am confident we will have a lot of time this year to make sure we find that rhythm and get up to speed."
At what point Red Bull achieve that and how far behind they will be in the championship race at that stage remains to be seen.
Needless to say, Vettel is playing down his chances of equalling the five championships in a row achieved by German compatriot Michael Schumacher from 2000-2004.
"Naturally the goal is similar to the last few years," said Vettel.
"In the beginning you always start off with limited expectations because you don't know how competitive you are.
"Once you realise you are competitive, you want to win, and that's the target for this year.
"Obviously we have to look at things step-by-step. There's no point saying we want to win the championship.
"First of all, we want to make sure we can do the best job we can, trying to finish the first race and then going from there.
"So right now, it's impossible to have any expectations."
For Vettel, this is the year when the phrase 'cometh the hour, cometh the man' could not be more appropriate.
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