Formula One: Sebastian Vettel fired up to silence doubters
Sebastian Vettel has warned his critics to write off at their peril his chances of him becoming only the second driver in Formula One history to win five successive world titles.
Following a wretched pre-season of testing in which the new Red Bull often ground to a halt, the odds are on Vettel failing to even cross the line in Sunday's season-opening Australian Grand Prix, never mind stretching his winning streak to 10 races after taking the chequered flag in the final nine of last year.
The Milton Keynes-based team encountered a raft of problems with the RB10 that has placed them firmly on the back foot going into the race around Melbourne's Albert Park.
It has been suggested the car appears quick enough, and if Red Bull can get on top of their reliability issues, then Vettel could be in the hunt for another crown.
Dismissing a suggestion that a fifth consecutive championship was not on the cards, Vettel said: "That's unfair to say. Our season testing, our preparation hasn't been ideal, and we're not in the best position for this race.
"But it's a different story for the championship because there is a long way to go.
"Two years ago I remember being on the grid (on pole) and (Fernando) Alonso was 1.5 seconds behind me, but he came very close to beating me for the title at the very last race.
"So it shows anything can happen. That's why this race is important as any other, and there are a lot of races to go.
"Of course, we know we're not in the best shape yet and there are a lot of things we need to solve, but unfortunately you can't solve them all overnight. We'd love to, but we can't. We have to go step by step, be as precise as we can, trying to give the best feedback possible to the engineers."
The past few weeks have arguably been some of the toughest for the 26-year-old since he arrived at Red Bull, prompting the question as to how he will react.
Naturally, Vettel has every intention of continuing to give his all.
"At this stage it's difficult for all of us to know what to expect as to how the racing will look, how it will feel inside the car, how many cars will cross the line," added Vettel. "We had a lot of problems during the test, as did others, so it's difficult to have any sort of expectations.
"But I'm not going out to simply make it round, rather to push to the maximum, to do the best I can, and then we'll see where we are and how far we get.
"The target is to finish, and to be in the best possible position.
"As to mindset, it's fairly straightforward for the rest of the year – we're a strong team, we have a lot of good people on board, we've good resources, so we should progress."
Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton feels his level of maturity will stand him in good stead for a potential tilt this year at a second Formula One world title.
Off the back of strong form in pre-season testing as Mercedes racked up the most kilometres and Hamilton posted the second quickest time, both he and they start as favourites to win the championship.
It is a tag, however, that does not sit too well with Hamilton.
The 29-year-old said: "Everything happens for a reason, and from the different experiences I've had, I've learned a lot.
"I've had bumps along the way, but I always feel like I've bounced back from them. It's not how you fall, it's how you get back up.
"So through all those experiences, you just brush the dirt off your shoulder and you keep going.
"I'm still enjoying my life, and my family and I are in a position we never thought we'd be in.
"So we're embracing the opportunity. I feel very fortunate to be here, amongst these drivers, driving for Mercedes. It's a dream."