sport

Vettel: Recovery proves RB8 pace

Sebastian Vettel reckons his recovery to second place in the Australian Grand Prix proves Red Bull's RB8 has plenty of potential.

Vettel says the team now just need to work out how to get the best out of their car.

The first qualifying session of the season in Albert Park on Saturday had sent shockwaves around the sport as McLaren surged to a front-row lockout and world champions and renowned one-lap kings Red Bull - considered by most observers to remain the team to beat following pre-season - slumped to fifth and sixth places.

RBR team principal Christian Horner, however, stressed that the squad felt they had underperformed and in Sunday's race duly delivered a performance more in keeping with their form of the last two seasons, with Vettel beating Lewis Hamilton to second and Mark Webber finishing right on the McLaren's tail in fourth.

The World Champion acknowledged race winner Jenson Button had been too strong for the team, but says he was pleased to come away from the first race with 18 points and, importantly, confirmation that the RB8 is a quick car.

"Overall congratulations to McLaren, to Jenson - he drove a fantastic race and was unbeatable today," Vettel said.

"But I'm very happy to come away with second; it's a lot of points. I think a lot of people would not have expected that after the result yesterday.

"I think we had a better car in the race. The car seems to have a lot of potential, now it's up to us to get to it and then we should be very close with these guys [McLaren]."

Vettel had been closing in on Hamilton in the second stint but passed his rival through the pits after benefitting from the appearance of the safety car, McLaren having stopped their drivers the lap before and who then had to adhere to the mandated controlled speed.

The world champion is optimistic he would have been able to pass Hamilton even without the safety car, however.

"I think nevertheless we would have had a good shot at him and it was very close," Vettel claimed.

"I decided to stay out, and he went to the pits, and I think we would have had a crack without the Safety Car.

"It would have been very close but surely maybe it [the Safety Car] may have helped a little bit."

At the start Vettel had moved ahead of Webber and Lotus's Romain Grosjean but dropped behind the fast-starting Mercedes of Nico Rosberg - although his stay behind his fellow German was brief as he pulled off a bold pass on the outside of Turn Nine.

Despite a brief trip across the grass at Turn 1, he then passed the other Mercedes of Michael Schumacher when the seven-time champion took to the grass himself when his W03 developed a gearbox problem.

Vettel explained: "Good start initially but then I was surprised by Nico because he had a very good start and then I got a bit stuck on the inside and didn't really have anywhere to go so he got past.

"Then I had two Mercedes ahead; I got past Nico very quickly which was a great manoeuvre and on edge.

"And then behind Michael, I had a mistake - went off in the first corner - and then he decided to do exactly the same next time I got close to him so that was good.

"Then obviously [I was] catching up the McLarens."