| Sebastian Vettel, in Melbourne, on Thursday. (Getty Images) |
Melbourne: Memories of past glories provide little fuel for three-time 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.
“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 said.
“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… So, I will have to start from scratch.”
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.
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, however, feels optimistic of going one better with Ferrari’s new F138.
“It will be a surprise if Red Bull are not in front of everybody after the advantage they had last year, but I am also confident, and I am optimistic that we have reduced this gap a lot.
“So, maybe we are not the fastest, but we are not 1.5 seconds behind as we were last year. This year we have a better car to start the championship and we just need to keep improving race and race.
“If we fight to the last race with (this) car this year I am much more optimistic.”
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.