Vettel cautious ahead of race "into the unknown"

Sebastian Vettel remained cautious about his chances of winning the season-opening Australian Grand Prix despite blowing away his rivals in qualifying to claim pole position on Saturday.

Updated: Mar 26, 2011, 17:14 PM IST

Melbourne: World champion Sebastian Vettel remained cautious about his chances of winning the season-opening Australian Grand Prix despite blowing away his rivals in qualifying to claim pole position on Saturday.

The 23-year-old Red Bull driver`s blistering flying lap was almost eight tenths of a second faster than Lewis Hamilton in second place and the quickest ever seen at the Albert Park circuit.
Having failed to finish after claiming pole last year, however, and with a raft of changes to the sport this season, not least in the new Pirelli tyres, the German was not getting carried away by his dominant performance.

"It was quite promising for Sunday, we`ll see how we get on," he told reporters. "We`ve certainly done the first step and this is the way you want to start the season."

"It was obviously a pleasure today, quite fast, and I`m very, very happy with the result. But if you look at the points, we have zero points."

Although he was confident that mechanical failure would not rob him of a chance to claim his 11th grand prix victory, the unpredictability of the impact of the new tyres were a matter for caution.

Pirelli were asked to produce tyres which degrade more quickly which will therefore force teams to make more pit stops -- as many as four by some calculations -- during the race.
"The car has been reliable from the start but it`s a hard race tomorrow with the new tyres, we`re racing into the unknown a bit," he said.

"We can kind of guess how the tyres will behave but we have to see ultimately. And racing all the others, having more than one stop, it will be quite entertaining for us as well."

His qualifying lap was all more impressive because Red Bull decided not to use the KERS system, which gives a short boost of power to the driver and was reintroduced this year.

"What did he do? a 23.5 or something," a gobsmacked Jenson Button, who finished fourth, told the BBC. "Eight tenths quicker than anyone. Let`s just hope it (KERS) doesn`t work at the start, then I`ll be happy."

While Vettel was cautious, his team mate Mark Webber was crestfallen at finishing third behind Hamilton as he bids to become the first Australian to win his home grand prix.

"I just couldn`t do the times today," he said. "I`m disappointed with my performance, obviously disappointed to get knocked off the front row."
"I tried my best and a bit mystified by the gap to Seb, I`ll have to have a look at where I can improve."

"It`s not the best day for me, but the bar is high."

The 34-year-old, whose best finish at Albert Park was two fifth places, will be hoping that the chances for overtaking presented by the greater number of pit stops works in his favour.

"Qualifying is not as important as last year but it`s still important," he said. "It`s better to be here than eighth or ninth. I`m looking forward to a good race tomorrow."

"It`s a long grand prix, lots of things can happen."

Bureau Report