Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull preferred caution over confidence as they launched the car they hope will allow them to defend their drivers' and constructors' titles in 2011 yesterday.
For Vettel, the world champion, maintaining motivation will not be a problem, but the German yesterday decided not to pass judgment on his championship chances as he drove the car at Valencia in Spain for the first time as pre-season testing began.
"It will be crucial to have a good start to the season, but it's a long season ahead of us. It will be a tough, tough battle and a long, hard fight," Vettel, who became world champion last year for the first time by winning the season finale in Abu Dhabi, said: "Motivation is not a problem. It's a more difficult situation than last year so we have to stay focused.
"Winning the championship never comes easy. Even if you start off with one of the quickest cars you may face the second half of the season with one that is not fast enough. It's difficult to predict," Vettel said. "To have [speed and reliability] from the beginning is the jackpot.
"I'm not going into this season thinking this could be number two of seven championships. We have to do it step-by-step. It doesn't make sense to set a target like that."
Red Bull did not launch their car until the second test in 2010, something championship rival McLaren-Mercedes are doing this year. Adrian Newey, Red Bull's chief technical officer, said he was "nervous" about what his competitors would come up with.
"We felt the car was ready to be released and it's always the balance of research time versus development time," Newey said.
Red Bull won nine races and took 15 pole positions last season, but despite that Christian Horner, the team principal, said he was not expecting an easy time of things when the new season starts next month in Bahrain.
He said: "The opposition that we have in McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes is very formidable. We can only do our best and at the end the championship table won't lie."
Vettel's teammate Mark Webber is looking to improve on third place in last year's title race.
""I need to start the season better than I did last year as well. Eighty per cent of my season was good."
Vettel was fastest during yesterday's opening day of the Valencia test, clocking a time of 1min 13.769secs. Testing continues today and tomorrow.
* Associated Press
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