LONDON, England, April 29 – Defending drivers' world champion Sebastian Vettel has warned his Red Bull team to stay on their guard for a major response from their rivals when the Formula One season resumes in Europe next weekend.
The 23-year-old German revealed also this week that he only decided to commit his future to the team during the off-season after being reassured that all of the key senior technical staff were also tied to long-term deals.
"It is about all the team, not just me or one other person like Adrian (Newey, technical director)," he said.
"We are a group and we are together and that is why I decided to stay and to extend my contract by a couple of years more."
Vettel has signed to remain with Red Bull until the end of 2014 and said he had resisted and rejected all talk of a switch to Ferrari – preferring to stay with the Milton Keynes-based outfit and create a new era in F1.
But firstly, he said, it was important to be prepared for a very tough year ahead starting with next weekend’s opening European race at Istanbul in Turkey.
Vettel said: "I think our car should be strong there, but, of course, we have to respect our competitors and we can never take anything for granted — people are pushing really hard to catch us — but we are pushing very hard too to maintain our strengths."
Vettel was beaten for the first time this year last time out in China where after his two season-opening triumphs in Australia and Malaysia he was defeated by Briton Lewis Hamilton, the 2008 champion, in a McLaren.
But Vettel still heads the championship and will go to Turkey as favourite to win again on one of his favourite circuits – where he made his debut as a Formula One driver.
"Turkey is a hard track on tyres and it’s usually quite hot there, but I especially like the place as it’s where I had my first F1 test drive," said Vettel.
"It is going to be tough on tyres, too – and that is a really big factor now."
The tyres supplied this year by new supplier Pirelli are expected to take a lot of punishment at the highly-challenging Turn Eight.
Vettel said: "It’s an awesome corner — we try to take it flat year by year. It’s fast and extremely bumpy, so you can hardly see where you’re going – you turn in and hope for the best."
The champion also explained, in an interview with Italian magazine Autosprint, that around 50 Red Bull staff had signed new deals to persuade him to stay.
He said: "Perhaps when I go back to the hotel I fall down the stairs, break a leg, and don’t win anymore races this year. Touch wood, but anything can happen.
"So, Adrian is one of the most important people in the team, but you ask about everyone – how many years are left in their contracts, whether they are happy — I wanted to lengthen my contract, but not in a completely different team."
His decision also ended growing speculation linking him with Ferrari.
He said: "Ferrari? If I talk about it so often, it’s because I’m often asked about it.
"In fact, there are two reasons — first of all Ferrari is something special, as I’ve said many times.
"The second reason is that I have to reply to whoever asks me about it. It’s a self-feeding situation.
"For me, Ferrari is a legend and, one day, it would be an honour for me to have my name on the list of Ferrari drivers. But that doesn’t mean I want to go there now — I’m happy where I am and this is why I’ve renewed for a couple of seasons."