Milton Keynes, England: Red Bull, the party animals of Formula One, launched their new car in Milton Keynes on Sunday against a background of blinding spotlights and fortissimo music. But when the designer, Adrian Newey, was asked to describe the 2013 challenger, the most exciting words he could come up with were “nice” and “evolutionary”.
The language of the world champion, Sebastian Vettel, was a little more colourful, for in a short space of time he succeeded in evoking thoughts of Hitler, Pol Pot and Dr Evil from the Austin Powers movies.
Hitler made an appearance when Vettel was asked if he could continue his dominant form of the past three seasons. “World domination? I’m German, but I didn’t say that and I have no moustache,” he joked.
He might have been referring to Pol Pot’s taking over of Cambodia when he said: “We are all starting from zero.” And finally there was a little piece of Dr Evil when he raised his little finger and said: “Now we are making our secret plans.”
And so, following the recent launches by Lotus, McLaren, Ferrari, Force India and Sauber, another stage of Formula One’s phoney war was reached.
No one, not even Newey or Vettel, will know how good the car is until they reach the final qualifying session in Melbourne on 16 March, the day before the opening race of the season, though they might know a little more when it is taken for its first spin by Mark Webber in testing at Jerez.
For the remarkable Vettel, 25, who has 26 wins and 36 poles to his name, as well as the past three world titles, any attempt to airbrush recent history was always going to end in failure.
He said: “We all have the same chances. It is going to be a long year for all of us. What happened last year does not really give us a head start or an advantage. There is a lot of pressure but I am just excited to get back in the car and start the testing.
“Whether it is quick enough we will have to see, but hopefully we will be up there. But as the regulations have not changed much, I don’t expect any miracles. It will be a long, tough season.”
Asked to identify his main rivals, he said: “We are racing against the best teams and drivers and it is easy for you to make out who they are.
“Fernando Alonso is one of them. It’s not a secret I respect him a lot as a driver and have a very high opinion of him. But Mark Webber is another and Lewis Hamilton and so on. I usually don’t like to name them because I might forget one.”
The Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, distanced himself from recent comments by team consultant Helmut Marko, who criticised Webber’s lack of consistency.
“I think that Helmut can be a little outspoken at times with his comments but he is entitled to his opinion,” Horner said. “But if we were not happy with Mark, we would not have signed him.
“We’re very happy with Mark and we give both drivers equal opportunity. It’s ultimately down to what they do on the circuit. For us, it doesn’t matter which driver wins, as long as it is a driver in one of our cars.
“Both of these guys believe they are the best and the team will do the very best it can to support them.”
Webber said: “I do believe I can have a crack at the championship this year, as I have done in previous seasons. That is my goal. That’s what I think about when I get up each day and I am working hard on doing that.
“I believe the team give me their full support. You cannot win a championship with only 99% support, you need 100 and that’s how we’re going into 2013.”