Vettel: No title expectations
Sebastian Vettel has said it is "impossible" for him to have expectations of a fifth straight title this season given the problems Red Bull have been experiencing during testing.
Vettel was speaking on Saturday evening after the World Champions' most difficult session yet. The sum total of running was just four corners of the Bahrain International Circuit before his car broke down.
Worse was to follow just a little while later when it stopped again - this time at the end of the pit lane. With an air of resignation, the World Champion helped push his RB10 back to Red Bull's garage, where it stayed for the rest of the day.
With team boss Christian Horner telling Sky Sports News that Red Bull are "ten days behind" due to a litany of problems, their attempts at a fix make Adrian Newey's latest creation sound more like a many-headed hydra than a racing car.
Regardless of what Red Bull can salvage from the final day's running on Sunday, expectations have necessarily been dampened after 11 days which might have brought the occasional flash of speed, but have far more regularly found Vettel and his team in the pits scratching their heads.
"Reliability is not where we want it to be," he said. "Too many things are breaking down, we're not running enough. But in two weeks' time we are in Melbourne, so we are looking forward to that and looking forward to getting more running there once we get new parts etcetera. But it's impossible to predict at this stage."
A consensus is growing that when Red Bull finally do figure out how to make the RB10 last the distance then Vettel will be in familiar surroundings.
Speaking on Friday, McLaren's Jenson Button said it looked particularly good in high-speed corners and whilst Vettel agreed, he accepted that the opening races will likely prove trying.
"The car felt good, I felt very happy with the car," he said. "Obviously it's a step back from last year in terms of overall grip but it wasn't too bad. So there's a lot of hope on that front.
"But we are aware that right now we have a lot of problems, we are not able to find a rhythm yet. But I am confident we will have a lot of time this year to make sure we find that rhythm and get up to speed."
As such, Vettel admitted that a successful World Championship defence currently seems a long way off. "Right now, it's impossible to have any expectations," he said. "Of course, our reliability's bad at this stage, otherwise I'd be doing a lot more mileage. But also it's impossible to judge the speed.
"I think the couple of laps we had it felt okay, but we'll have to wait until the first race to see what the stopwatch says."
The 26-year-old added: "The goal is similar to the last few years. In the beginning, you always start off with limited expectations because we don't know how competitive we are. And once you realise you are competitive, you want to win. That's the target for this year.
"But obviously, we have to look at things step-by-step. There's no point saying that 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."
Red Bull's problems centre on cooling of the car's Renault power unit. According to Vettel, however, the question of blame is irrelevant.
"I think it's not fair to split the two anyway," he said. "We work with Renault, Renault works with us all year.
"Surely there's things that happen on the Renault side and other things that happen on our side, and we are a team.
"We've had a lot of success together, right now we have a difficult time together."