Sebastian Vettel has played down suggestions Red Bull’s rivals have put the world champions on the back foot with their driver lineups for 2014.
Ferrari plans to field the all-star lineup of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen, and Mercedes’ pairing of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg is arguably the strongest of 2013.
Red Bull, on the other hand, although counting again on the likely four-time world champion Vettel next year, is replacing the experienced Mark Webber with the graduating Toro Rosso driver Daniel Ricciardo.
With experience arguably at a premium in 2014 as the rules undergo perhaps the biggest shakeup in the history of the sport, Vettel played down suggestions Red Bull will be on the back foot.
“For next year, with a lot of new things coming in, it probably doesn’t matter so much whether you’ve been around the last couple of years,” he is quoted by the British broadcaster Sky.
But on the other hand, while some predict fireworks between champions Alonso and Raikkonen next year, others are hailing Ferrari’s decision to put together the best and most experienced driver lineup possible for 2014.
“It’s the right decision by (Luca di) Montezemolo, because Ferrari has been behind Red Bull on the last four world championships, which doesn’t make him happy,” Mercedes’ Niki Lauda told CNN.
The great Austrian said the arrival of Raikkonen, to replace the obvious ‘number 2’ Massa, will “kick Alonso” to up his game.
“I got Hamilton last year, I convinced him to join the team and he made a hell of a difference,” Lauda insisted.
Indeed, Lauda thinks Raikkonen’s arrival will have an immediate impact on Alonso.
“If Alonso is annoyed that Raikkonen is coming, then he will drive even faster in Singapore, even if Kimi is not even there (at Ferrari) yet,” he told Osterreich newspaper.
Meanwhile, Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost dismissed suggestions that because Raikkonen is so laid back, he does not deserve his place at the very top of formula one.
“He even seems to drink faster than the others,” the Austrian laughed, according to Spain’s Marca newspaper.
“What I mean is, no matter what he does on his days off, he obviously trains hard because he is in perfect physical shape. Look at his neck — he’s a bull.
“That comes from somewhere, not only the bottle,” added Tost.
© RIF | GMM