Vettel: Like everyone else we have zero points on our side at the moment

Sebastian Vettel during traditional photocall in Melbourne
Sebastian Vettel during traditional photocall in Melbourne

Memories of past glories provide little fuel for three-times world champion Sebastian Vettel, who would rather keep his eyes fixed firmly on the challenge ahead as he prepares for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix this weekend.

The 25-year-old Red Bull driver kicks off his campaign to match Juan-Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher as the only drivers to have won four successive Formula One championships, and to become the first to do it before the age of 30.

It is difficult to mention Vettel’s name without the accompanying honour roll of achievements, which included becoming the youngest triple champion in the history of the sport last year, but he suggested his three titles will have little bearing on this season’s championship race.

“I think if there’s a secret (to staying motivated) then (it’s) to not think about what happened the last three years,” the German told reporters at Melbourne’s Albert Park circuit on Thursday.

Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel mobbed by fans in Melbourne

“I don’t think it makes a difference. I think every year we start again from zero. I think everyone has the same chances. I think the first title was very, very special. After that, I think you don’t have that pressure any more. You’ve proved to yourself more than anyone else you can do so.”

“So after that obviously we had two fantastic years again, very different to each other, but we don’t really think about what happened last year or the last three years. We are here, we have zero points on our side at the moment. The same as everyone else.”

While many of the 21 other drivers set to contest the championship may disagree with Vettel’s view of parity, most accept the first race of the season is, by and large, a plunge into the unknown.

Pre-season testing has rarely offered a bullet-proof forecast of a season to come, but there were few signs that Red Bull or any of the other leading teams – Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes and Lotus – were gearing up for a potentially dominant season.

Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel gets onto the gravel during Barcelona testing

Vettel earlier said Red Bull’s testing was the “most inconclusive” he had experienced with the British-based team, perhaps providing a glimmer of hope to challengers desperate to break the team’s three-year monopoly on the championship.

But some drivers, including last year’s runner-up Fernando Alonso of Ferrari, think Red Bull have been keeping their best in reserve for the season-opener.

Alonso, who has been pipped by Vettel for the championship in two of the past three years, took the fight to the last race last year despite a season dogged by an under-performing car, and feels optimistic of going one better with Ferrari’s new F138.

Vettel suggested the season would likely go down to the wire again, with few changes introduced to this year’s cars by the governing FIA.

“Testing obviously this year was not as conclusive as previous years so we arrive here not knowing what is going to happen but I think it’s very exciting,” he said. “Last year we saw it was very close so I don’t expect it to be any different than last year.”

“If anything, even a little bit tighter, so it will be crucial to make the most out of every single race. But in terms of motivation, it was a long flight but I’m happy to be here now, so I’m ready to start again.”