MELBOURNE, Australia, March 18 – Red Bull are looking to Malaysia next weekend to kick-start their Formula One season after tyre problems blighted their early speed promise in Melbourne.
The Red Bulls of world champion Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were the quickest cars in qualifying and both started off the front row of the Australian Grand Prix grid on Sunday.
Yet three-time champion Vettel had to settle for third behind race winner Kimi Raikkonen in a Lotus and runner-up Fernando Alonso, driving a Ferrari.
Vettel laid the blame on tyre degradation while Webber, losing his grid advantage by getting off the line sluggishly, had issues with his car’s telemetry compounded by a below par pit stop as he finished in sixth.
Red Bull are expecting the tropical heat of the circuit in Sepang, just outside the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, to be more to the team’s liking.
“I think in the cooler conditions we weren’t in the optimum window with these tyres,” team principal Christian Horner said.
“We leave this race knowing we’ve got a good car and we’re looking forward to warmer temperatures in Malaysia.”
Vettel, chasing a fourth consecutive world driver’s title this year, said it was not the outcome he was expecting from the season-opening race at Albert Park after coming off pole.
“I think you’re always a little disappointed when you start first and don’t finish first, but overall it was a good weekend for us,” he said.
“We had a good day with a pole and a podium — but in the race we were a little too aggressive with the tyres and lost the front and the rears, while others did a little better.
“There are always areas where you can improve, but the result we got today is fair.
“We didn’t see Kimi on the track, he was too quick and Fernando (Alonso) jumped us at a vulnerable time — but we can be happy with third,” Vettel added.
McLaren are another team looking to improve in Malaysia after taking just two points out of Melbourne.
Nothing went right for the eight-time world constructors’ champions and their number one driver Jenson Button could only finish ninth.
McLaren were off the pace in practice and qualifying and Button was well down the field throughout the 58-lap Melbourne race, while Mexican team-mate Sergio Perez finished out of the points in 11th.
“Having won the Australian Grand Prix three times so far in my career — in 2009, 2010 and 2012 — you’d have to say that today’s ninth place isn’t really much to write home about,” Button lamented.
“Looking forward to Malaysia next weekend, I think we’ve got a tough few days ahead of us, but hopefully we can now do some number-crunching in an effort to understand our car a bit better and extract a bit more performance out of it there.”