Paddock regulars insist the formerly-dominant Red Bull team cannot be written off after a single defeat in Australia.
On paper, reigning back-to-back champion Sebastian Vettel’s second place on Sunday doesn’t look bad. But Melbourne was in fact the first race since before either of the German’s title-winning campaigns in 2010 and 2011 that a Red Bull car failed to lead a single lap.
“You cannot discount them, they (Red Bull) are always there,” said Albert Park winner Jenson Button, “but it seems that the tables have turned.”
After not winning a title since 2008 with Lewis Hamilton, Button’s McLaren colleagues will hope that is true.
“Red Bull needs to dress warmly,” German racing legend Hans-Joachim Stuck told Sport1, “although I see McLaren on an equal footing only.”
He warned against over-analysing the Melbourne result.
“This is not a benchmark for the rest of the season – the Malaysia circuit is much more meaningful because who is good there is good everywhere.”
However, McLaren hinted after Melbourne that it could actually have performed more strongly last weekend.
“We were more than marginal on fuel,” boss Martin Whitmarsh is quoted by Kleine Zeitung newspaper. “There is no question we could have been faster (in Australia).”
But so could Red Bull, Vettel insists.
“In Melbourne, we learned a lot about the behaviour of our car, which has great potential,” he said. “We need to make it harder for McLaren in Malaysia.”
Triple world champion Niki Lauda agrees: “Red Bull will catch up quickly.”
Team advisor Dr Helmut Marko insisted: “We have not brought everything out of the car yet. So we are very optimistic about the next races.”
He is also dismissive of Red Bull’s other rivals.
“Only McLaren are on par with us,” said Marko, who scorned at Mercedes, the team who fared strongly in Melbourne before suffering in the race.
“They were more like a chicane,” the acid-tongued Austrian added, according to laola1.at.