- Sebastian Vettel exclusive
Vettel on Canada, KERS and HamiltonLaurence Edmondson June 13, 2011
Sebastian Vettel took ten minutes out of his busy schedule to talk to ESPNF1 the day after he finished second at the Canadian Grand Prix
Although you missed out on the win in Canada, you still managed to extend your lead in the drivers' championship, you must be pretty pleased with that on reflection?
Obviously the first thing is the emotions that you have when you cross the line. I was especially disappointed because a win was so close, but all in all it was an important step and good to come away with second after a difficult race. It was very easy to make mistakes and get wrong calls for strategy, tyres and whatever, so I think we kept our heads cool and we were practically in the lead all the time except the last half a lap. But all in all it was a very important step.
One thing that did come across was that the McLaren was very quick towards the end of the race, do you put that down to the conditions or were they quicker than you in race trim?
The conditions were special, so there are a couple of open points… We knew that they would be quite quick, but I think we approached the weekend knowing that it would be one of the difficult ones because the track layout does not suit us as well as other teams. But all in all to get away with that result, we can be very happy. Jenson and McLaren appeared to be very competitive at the end, I think it would have been possible to defend, but surely the last couple of laps there was no doubt that they were very quick.
We saw you make an uncharacteristic mistake on the last lap. Will you change your approach at all in the future?
No not at all. I said after the race that I made a mistake and there's no problem with that. I think in the conditions I obviously had to push very hard to stay ahead and I tried very hard to keep the gap for the back straight, because the thing is that once Jenson was close in the DRS zone then it would have been just too easy to overtake and he would have gone past no problem. I had to push hard to keep that little gap and I locked up the rears a little bit under braking and had to open up the car - on a normal dry track nothing would have happened, I would have lost just a tiny bit of time. But when it's like that I went a little bit wide and onto the wet and then there is no chance to recover from there.
In Canada we had the double DRS and we are going to see it again in Valencia. From your experience over the weekend is it a good thing or does it make it too easy to overtake?
In the end you have to be careful about how big you create the zone because obviously it can make overtaking too easy, like I think it was in Canada. If you are right behind and you open the wing then the other guy has no chance to defend, which is surely not the idea. But we are playing around and it is a new system. We are still early in the season and everybody is still learning with it. In Valencia I think the layout will be different and it will be more difficult in some ways [to overtake]. But I haven't seen the map yet and I don't know where they have decided to put the zones etc.
I don't think there is any secret or any trick. Every time we try to optimise things as much as possible in quali and it's down to one quick lap using the most from the tyres. I think so far we have done a pretty good job. So I don't think necessarily in race trim we are slow, it's just we have trouble sometimes this year with KERS and other things. All in all I think we have a very, very strong package no matter what kind of conditions. Also yesterday in the wet it was pretty clear that we were very quick. People said in the wet that it would open opportunities for them [our rivals], but in hindsight I think it opened windows to us and opportunities. At every restart we pulled away but the safety car allowed them to catch back up, so surely if you are in the lead and you have a bit of a gap then that doesn't help, but that's how it goes sometimes.
What's the focus for Red Bull now? Is it more towards working on race trim and using the tyres over a long stint?
Every race is different. With the tyres especially this year, it's usually a different picture we have after the race compared to what we had at the start. If you look at this year there were some races where we didn't perform according to what we expected. But we have two or three things we are working on and we have to do better in the future. There are no secrets, as you mentioned. Working with the tyres, obviously in the race there are so many things coming up, you start with a very heavy car so the forces are different and the loads that you have to put into the car and into the tyres. I think all in all we have a very fast package and we just have to make sure we can use it no matter what the conditions are and no matter what stage of the race we are at.
One weakness that has become apparent on the RB7 is KERS. I understand it was working on and off in Canada, how big a concern is that right now?
I think it is our weak point at the moment, for sure, because it is causing us more trouble than anything else on the car. We are working, obviously, very hard on it and we are not proud of where we are at the moment, with the amount of problems we have. Surely it would have helped us here and there [if it was working 100% of the time] and would have made us quicker, especially in the races. But it didn't happen, so I can only say that we will keep working hard on it and we will try to make it reliable so that it works every time and it doesn't fail.
I think if you look at the championship so far it has been tight and it will stay tight. People will obviously try to catch up as much as they can and try to win races and we have to make sure that we keep improving our car ourselves. In terms of room for development, I think there are always things you can improve. You'll find yourself in a position where you're thinking of things to improve on the car that you didn't think were possible a couple of weeks before. Day by day we have to go step by step and find new things. Back at the factory we have guys trying to make things better in many ways, not just aero wise but also mechanically, and we do bring a lot of new parts to the track. We just have to hope that they work and that they make the car faster.
One thing we are expecting at the British Grand Prix is the ban on off-throttle blown diffusers. We've heard that the Renault-powered cars have invested heavily in that, is it something that is going to hit Red Bull particularly hard?
If it is happening then I think it will hit everyone. I think if you look at the concept of our car then we are not bad off if it [the ban] happens. I think there are other people that will lose more, for instance the Renault or Mercedes team which are completely relying on that technique. Surely it will hit everyone as we all rely on it in terms of performance. It does make us quicker, and if you ban it it will slow us down. But I think, compared to others, we won't be at a disadvantage.
In theory you will lose a lot of downforce when you are off the throttle. What will that mean from the driver's perspective?
It will change, obviously, how much speed you are bringing into the corners and round the corners - anything in the off-throttle mode. I think we were all very used to driving the cars like they were last year [before the introduction of off-throttle blown diffusers] and you have to adapt quickly anyway in a race, things change. Grip levels change with the tyres, so it's not that much of a loss overall. Surely it will slow us down - it will slow everyone down - but it's not as if you will have to change your driving from black to white.
I think in terms of approach it is exactly the same. The main difference is that this year we haven't had big trouble or big problems, especially on the reliability side. I think all in all we have learned a lot together, which is why you might think that this year looks so much different. I think we have a strong package, the team has learned and altogether as a group we have grown. That's what makes a difference at the end of the day, but it's a long, long way to go. We've seen how quickly things can change quite a few times already. We know what it takes but this doesn't allow us to forget all the little steps that we need to make.
Of the drivers trying to chase you down, which one do you fear the most?
At the moment we need to be aware of the McLaren drivers and the Ferraris. The Mercedes looks to be a little bit further behind, but if you look at last year it shows you how quickly things can change. In the end every race will be important and in particular those races that you might not be able to win, but you might be able to get away with fifth, fourth, third or whatever and take some points.
There are stories circulating that Lewis Hamilton met with Christian Horner at Canada over the weekend. If he is lining up a move to Red Bull how would you feel about that?
It's not my decision, I'm not signing drivers. It's something you need to ask Christian. Around this time of the season, when nothing is happening off the track, people start to talk about a lot of things. Our job now is to stay focused on the races and not waste our energy thinking about other things.
Looking forward to Valencia, it's a race you won last year, do you think it will play to your strengths this year?
We will see. I think Valencia is a good place for us and we had a very strong race there last year. Surely, it's very difficult to say we will do the same again this year but that's the target. I think the package that we have works very well, and it's also worked well on circuits that we expected to be difficult for us. Another confirmation of that was this weekend in Canada. We will see, I think we have a strong car that works everywhere, but I don't think necessarily we are the clear favourites - it will be tight again. I think we have a good chance so we need to focus on using it.
Laurence Edmondson is the deputy editor on ESPNF1