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Motor Racing

Sebastian Vettel reserving judgement on chances ahead of new season


Sebastian Vettel is reserving judgment on whether he can make it a hat-trick of Formula One world championships this season.

Only two drivers in F1 history - Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher - have won three or more successive titles, underlining the difficulty of the task faced by Vettel and Red Bull.

After his first stint at the wheel of the team's new car yesterday on the third day of pre-season testing in Jerez, the 24-year-old seemed positive.

That is despite the drastic changes that have been forced upon the team following changes to the regulations.

Gone is the exhaust blown diffuser, last season's crucial device pioneered by Red Bull which was instrumental in Vettel and the team clinching back-to-back drivers' and constructors' crowns.

Design guru Adrian Newey has since been hard at work attempting to compensate for the loss of downforce that came with the diffuser, and so far there are no glum faces.

But as to whether it's a championship challenger, Vettel said: "It is too early for that.

"At the moment we have to look at ourselves and focus on our car, with hardly any time to look at what the others are doing.

"There is a bit of a reference when you look at what runs they've been doing, but if you look at previous years at this time of year it's all up and down. Nothing really shows yet.

"Now we wait for Mercedes [to launch their car] and then we will know a little more, certainly at the last test in Barcelona.

"That is when people usually turn up with the car they will race at the first grand prix, so we have to be patient.

"The change in rules have also given people an opportunity to catch up, so we'll see what happens."

Vettel, who has yet to name the RB8 unlike past monikers such as 'Luscious Liz' and 'Kinky Kylie', finished second overall on the timesheet of the 2012 cars with a lap of one minute 19.297secs.

That was nearly a second slower than the best time set by one of the new cars this week in the Lotus driven by Romain Grosjean, and 0.167secs ahead of McLaren's Lewis Hamilton.

Frenchman Grosjean admitted to being "one of the happiest guys in the world" following his maiden outing in a car, the E20, that has so far surprised.

As for Hamilton, he also seemed relatively content with his first run in the MP4-27 as he said: "I definitely feel happier than at the start of last year's test with this new car.

"Last year we only did 10, 15 laps and then we had some failures, but [yesterday] I did 80 laps, so it's a big improvement on last year, and mileage is everything.

"That's where the team learn the most about the car, the more data they get the better, so it's definitely been a good three days so far."