Sebastian Vettel has admitted confidence is not what it used to be inside Red Bull despite hitting the front again in this year’s Formula One world title race.
Vettel clinched his 22nd career victory in Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix to leapfrog Lewis Hamilton at the top of the championship standings by four points after the opening four races.
The reigning double world champion, however, has found it tough going in a see-saw season so far in which no driver or car has dominated, in contrast to Vettel’s stranglehold last year.
“It’s a nice story to say we had the best car by far before,” said Vettel.
“Yes, we had a very strong car, but sometimes we didn’t have the best car yet had strong weekends.
“This year we’d have loved to be in a better place to start. Nevertheless, I think we’ve had good races.
“But it is tight and we’re not as confident as we used to be, so small things can make a difference in qualifying and have a big impact on the race.
“The faster you go on Saturday, the easier the race is on Sunday.”
Prior to the weekend Vettel had been out-qualified by team-mate Mark Webber in the first three races such was his slump in form.
The 24-year-old German has chopped and changed with regard to different aspects of his car in a bid to find what suits him best.
Despite his win from pole in Bahrain, the 17th of his F1 career that elevates him up to joint fourth alongside Nigel Mansell in the sport’s history books, Vettel knows there is more to come.
“We’ve only had four races,” said Vettel, speaking to Metro.
“I’m not entirely happy with where we are, but I think there’s great potential in the car.
“You have to give yourself time to try different things and see what works best for you.
“Maybe Mark is struggling a bit less (this season), I don’t know, but we talk about how the car feels and agree on most stuff.”
Vettel admits the three-day test next week in Mugello, the first in season since 2008, is “crucial” for the team if they are to make the progress he expects in the races that follow.
Vettel added: “In Italy we’ll be able to test and evaluate a lot of things and get the car in a happier place for Barcelona (the Spanish Grand Prix on May 13).”