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Motor Racing

Sebastian Vettel keen to lower expectations

Sebastian Vettel is refusing to contemplate the possibility of one day matching Michael Schumacher's record haul of seven Formula One world titles.

In becoming the youngest world champion in the sport's history last year at the age of just 23, time is undoubtedly on Vettel's side.

But after Red Bull launched their new car for this year, the RB7, and after impressively topping the standings on the first day of pre-season testing yesterday, Vettel is simply concerned about defending his crown.

"It will surely take some time," smiled Vettel as he assessed the prospect of equalling compatriot Schumacher's feat.

"What Michael achieved is very special in many ways, so you don't set a target to win eight world championships just to go one better than the best guy in history so far.

"It doesn't make sense to set a target like that. It's a long way off, and you never know what can happen in the future.

"There are lots of very good drivers in Formula One, so it needs to come together, to be in the right place at the right time to be able to fight for the championship.

"So what I'm not doing is going into the season thinking this could be number two out of seven.

"You have to go step by step. Right now we focus on today, then we focus on tomorrow, and from there you go.

"Of course, in many years' time it will be nice to look back and see what you have achieved."

If Red Bull had every intention of firing a shot across the bows of their rivals then they did it in comprehensive fashion at Valencia's Circuito Ricardo Tormo.

Although you can never read too much in the times, given the cars here will be vastly different to those that take to the track for the opening grand prix in Bahrain on March 13, Red Bull certainly made a statement of intent.

"That is our target, that is what we are aiming for," said Vettel.

"This was day one for most of us, and we have a long testing season before we start racing again in Bahrain.

"Then we have a very, very long season - 20 races - so even if you start with the best car, things can change, so you need to keep up the development."

Of the seven new cars on track, Vettel finished 0.784secs ahead of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, with Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi a further 1.1secs down in sixth.

Renault's Vitaly Petrov was eighth, with Michael Schumacher ninth with Mercedes whose new car, the W02, suffered a hydraulic failure in the morning that restricted Nico Rosberg to just nine laps.

Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari was 10th and Rubens Barrichello 11th and 3.5secs down on Vettel in his Williams.

McLaren, Force India, Virgin and Hispania all ran versions of last year's car ahead of their launches following this test as they evaluated the tyres from new suppliers Pirelli.