Mar.17 (Reuters) World champion Sebastian Vettel said it was too early for Red Bull to “push the panic button”, despite failing to get a car on the front two rows of the grid for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.
Having dominated F1, particularly in qualifying, for the last two seasons, Vettel and his Australian team mate Mark Webber find themselves in the unusual position of starting Sunday’s race on the third row.
“Maybe here it is a different situation but the race is still to come,” said the 24-year-old, who won from pole position at Albert Park last year.
“It’s still early days. It would be wrong to start panicking and start reviewing every aspect of the car and every area.
“The way we have worked across the last couple of years was not bad. Nevertheless, today we learned we are not quick enough. That’s what we want to change.”
Vettel conceded he had made a mistake at the start of his flying lap in the third qualifying session and had to settle for sixth fastest.
Red Bulls started from pole position in 18 of the 19 races last season – Vettel took a record 15 of them – and won 12 races – as he and the team clinched successive drivers’ and constructors’ titles.
Webber, who has a best finish of fifth in 10 attempts at winning his home race, suffered a KERS boost mechanism failure in third qualifying and he finished fifth fastest but said there was no fundamental problem with the car.
“As is always the way in F1 when you are a little bit off … you are extremely exposed and we saw that today,” the 35-year-old said.
“We have done that to the opposition many times over. In all sports you get what you deserve and we tried our best today but it wasn’t good enough.
“But they haven’t handed out any trophies yet so we’ll see what happens tomorrow.
“We’ll find out tomorrow and next week [in Malaysia] how we are are on Sunday afternoons but I think Saturday afternoons are not our strength at the moment.”
Having played very much second fiddle to his team mate last year as he struggled with the new tyres introduced into F1, Webber said it was a small pleasure to be in front of the German in qualifying.
“I think it’s pretty clear from winter that I’ve been much more comfortable in the car but it’s all relative and I’m not happy with where we are on the grid,” he said.
“The whole team is disappointed, in the last few years the bar’s been lifted. We need to press on see where we need to improve.”