While the recent test times at Jerez were inconclusive in terms of the relative performance of the ten teams in attendance, Red Bull pilot (and last year’s title runner up) Sebastian Vettel believes that the leading teams are probably closely matched.
“I expect everyone to improve from where they are now, so we will see,” Vettel told ESPNF1. “At the moment it is pretty close, so it looks promising, looks interesting. If you are good or bad always depends on your rivals. It has not been straightforward running, with everyone in the same conditions and out on the track at the same time, and everyone on the same fuel load. So the answer is unknown. But it feels good. We don’t have any problems and balance-wise it [the RB6] feels very similar to last year, which is a good sign.”
Echoing the sentiments of previous comments made by others in the paddock, Vettel suspects that a true idea of the F1 pecking order this year won’t emerge until the season-opener in Bahrain next month. And even then, taking into account the different fuel loads that might be run during Friday’s practice sessions on race weekend, a true picture might not emerge until the first qualifying session, on Saturday, when all the teams are running on low fuel.
“You might arrive at a grand prix on a Friday three seconds off the pace,” Vettel said, “but possibly you are the fastest and won’t know until Saturday when you go to qualifying.”
Testing resumes next Wednesday, for another four-day session at Jerez. Practice for the season-opening race at Bahrain begins on Friday, March 12.