Triple world champion Sebastian Vettel distanced himself from a suggestion that he was planning world domination as Formula One champions Red Bull unveiled the RB9, the car that could carry him to a fourth successive title this season.
“World domination? I’m German, but I didn’t say that,” said the startled 25-year-old at the launch of the RB9, revealed under bright lights and to a pulsating beat in a chilly hangar next to the team’s factory in central England, on Sunday.
“I have no moustache,” he added with a cheeky grin, to laughter from an audience of sponsors and predominantly British factory employees, lest anyone fail to get the allusion to Adolf Hitler.
The RB9, the latest brainchild of design boffin Adrian Newey at the Austrian-owned team, has every chance of becoming a world-beater and follows on from cars that have set the pace for the past three seasons.
Vettel was dominant in 2011 but not so last year, when seven different drivers won the first seven races and Red Bull struggled to get on top of the Pirelli tyres initially.
This season could see the top teams closer than ever with little change in the regulations from 2012.
Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari and McLaren, now without the stellar talents of Lewis Hamilton, have already unveiled their challengers but the Red Bull is the one both will want to beat once the championship starts in Australia on March 17.
The car, with prominent new title sponsorship from Japanese carmaker Infiniti, is a clear evolution from last year’s, but with notable design tweaks.
It retained the ‘broken nose’ but with a partial ‘vanity panel’ smoothing out the step where last year there was an aperture likened to a letterbox slot.
“This year with the vanity panel allowed, we’ve got rid of the letterbox but it (the panel) doesn’t extend a huge way forwards otherwise it becomes an unjustifiable weight,” commented Newey.
The technical head said there were no huge changes, with most of the revisions in the middle area of the car with a tidying up of details that needed improving from last year.
“The devil is really in the detail with this car,” said Newey. “Perhaps the most significant change is not in the regulations, its the new [for 2013] Pirelli tyres.”
He said that it had been a “remarkable achievement” to get the car completed two days before the start of testing after a tight championship battle last season that took up so much time and resources.
Vettel, racing again with Australian team mate Mark Webber for the fifth season after beating him in the four previous ones, will have to wait until Wednesday for his first taste of the car at the Jerez test track.
He will start the season as a favourite, even if he is not the immediate frontrunner, but the German was not about to get carried away with any predictions.
“The focus is really on pretty much the same as every year,” he said. “Start the season the right way, have a good first race in Melbourne, make sure that in testing we have prepared the car as much as we can. Whether it’s quick or not, we will see.
“Hopefully we are up there [among the title contenders]. There is no guarantee for that even though we were doing pretty good in the last couple of years…I think it’s probably the same teams as last year,” he added.
“I don’t expect any miracles but equally I expect a very long and very tough season. Lots of races, close racing…hopefully at the end of the year we can say it all worked out. It’s nice looking back at the numbers and seeing what you’ve achieved. I think it’s pretty special and pretty difficult to keep on doing and repeating,” he said.
“But the focus is not on continuing to write a certain story if you look at numbers and stuff like that, the focus is pretty much the same as every year – to start the season the right way, have a good first race in Melbourne and make sure that in testing we prepare the car as much as we can.
“Whether it’s quick or not we will see and then obviously it’s up to us to make it reliable so that it survives the whole season.”
Asked by Sky Sports F1’s Ted Kravitz whether he considered Alonso his main threat again this year, Vettel insisted: “I think the best drivers are in the best teams. And from a team point of view I’m racing against the best team and the drivers’ point of view the best drivers.
“So I think it’s easy for you to make out who they are. Fernando is certainly one of them, there’s no secret that I respect him a lot as a driver and have a high opinion of him. But there’s others as well – Mark [Webber] is one of them, Lewis [Hamilton] is one of them and there’s others.
“I usually don’t like to name them because there’s a chance of forgetting one and that’s not the idea…”
Quietly pointed out by Webber, beside him, that he had indeed omitted someone, Vettel swiftly added: “…Jenson. Sorry!”
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