Vettel: We have a long way to go, these guys are bloody quick, congratulations to them

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A month ago no one would have bet much on Red Bull finishing races let alone challenging for wins, yet two rounds into the 2014 Formula 1 World Championship, Sebastian Vettel ripped up predictions by finishing third in the Malaysian Grand Prix and signalling to his rivals that he and Red Bull are on course for a vigorous defence of their titles. He spoke after the race at Sepang.

Your first time on the podium this year…
SV: It was a really good race. The start was not very good. I was quite surprised when I saw Nico on my right.

Tell us about that…
SV: I don’t know. I thought I had a good start but then I focused on getting in the tow of Lewis to maybe attack him going into the first corner. Then Nico was there on the right and it was quite tight. Daniel was coming as well as I was trying to get past Nico. So I lost a place but fortunately I got it back and then later on I was trying to get as close as I could to Nico. At some stage it looked like we are pretty similar, pretty evenly matched but then it’s like he found another gear, he was pulling away. In the end I was just trying to get the car home. Obviously Daniel didn’t make it for a couple of reasons. All in all it’s good to get another podium after Daniel has been on the podium in Australia. But we still have a long way [to go] these guys are bloody quick, congratulations to them, they did a good job but we are trying to catch-up.

Y0u said over the radio at the end there that you’re pretty pleased, that you’ve got some work to do still but you were on the whole pleased with the outcome – but you were 24.5s behind Lewis at the finish, and that’s a pretty big number still, isn’t it?
SV: Yes, it is – but I don’t think that’s…probably Lewis could have gone faster, I think we could have gone faster at the end of the race but our priority at the end was to make sure we secure the podium. So, I think probably to see the reality, I don’t know where the gaps were, probably 10, 15 laps to the end but no doubt, congratulations to them, they did a very good job, they looked nearly seamless already in winter testing, they are bloody quick, the package they have is very, very strong, we know that but I think, y’know, for us there’s mostly positives that remain. After Australia, Daniel did a fantastic job here again. I think the car was very competitive, it’s a completely different track, different conditions but yeah, we are there and that’s the most important…I think it’s much better than what we expected at some stage during the winter. We know that there’s a lot we can do better – because it doesn’t feel great when we are out there racing. Just if you go out on track and listen and look at how the cars behave, on power I think there’s a big difference, so yeah, we know that. I think it’s a question of time, how soon we manage to catch up. And then we try to give them a harder time.

Do you think that the three contenders {Hamilton, Rosberg, Vettel] for the title are sitting up there today?
SV: Well, I think Fernando is missing, Daniel, Kimi and probably one other guy that we don’t know yet. Still early days, but that’s what I would say.

We’ve heard an awful lot about some extreme measures that drivers have taken to stay below weight this season with the car. Now Malaysia is always a punishing race because of the heat. Was it more difficult this year, especially as we had no rain, just the physical challenge?
SV: It’s always hot, it’s not a walk in the park but I think we’re going slower, tyres are harder, cars are slower, less downforce as Lewis touched on, so it’s probably a little less hard than it was. The fact that we all try to save weight for this year…next year the weight goes up anyway which is good for the heavy drivers but for this year it’s a pain for them. Doesn’t help, because you’re a bit more on the edge but this is probably one of the worst races. I think the most difficult one is probably Singapore later this year.

Red Bull made big progress between Bahrain and Melbourne, again progress between Melbourne and here. Are you happy with the speed of development, is that the speed you need in order to catch the Mercedes, let’s say, when the European season starts?
SV: Yeah, we need to make big steps because they are quite far ahead but I’m quite happy with the steps we’re currently making. It’s the first race distance I’ve done this year, since Brazil, it’s the first race distance I’ve done so that’s a big step. Obviously, at some stage during testing, we didn’t expect to finish the first couple of races so well done to all the guys in the team on the reliability front. It’s not a big secret, we know that there’s still a lot to do. In terms of driveability we’re not yet there where we want to be. In terms of power, it’s not a big secret without giving a hammering but the guys at Viry are flat out to work on that front. Renault is pushing very, very hard but at this stage we have to summarise and say that Mercedes did a better job, they’re quicker than us so we know that there’s a lot of things we have to do better but it’s still a bloody good result today, finishing on the podium, right behind them. That’s what we need to do, as long as we can, up to the point where we’re even and we can challenge them and give them a harder time.

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