Vettel expects tight battle in Japan
World Champion thinks Red Bull's Suzuka superiority might be a thing of the past
By Mike Wise at Suzuka. Last Updated: 05/10/12 4:48am
Sebastian Vettel has said that he expects an "extremely tight" battle at the front of the field in this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix.
The defending World Champion moved up to second place in this year's title race after his win in Singapore and is hopeful Red Bull can be there or thereabouts once more at Suzuka.
However, he does not expect the team to enjoy the same advantage they have in the past. Vettel won the race in both 2009 and 2010 before clinching his second Drivers' Championship in Japan 12 months ago by finishing second to Jenson Button.
"It's difficult to know and difficult to predict at this stage - we have to get out tomorrow. The weather should be quite consistent, in that case tomorrow could be quite important already and good to find out where you are," he said on Thursday.
"Historically this is a circuit that we used to like and we always have been very competitive around here. So I think we should have a good weekend, but this year as well in fast corners we are struggling a little bit more than in the past.
"Obviously there's a lot of fast and medium speed corners around this track, so we'll see."
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Vettel predicted that Sauber, whose car has already shown well on tracks similar to the high-speed Suzuka layout, could challenge the usual suspects.
"I think it will be extremely tight because there's a couple of cars that probably struggle more on a circuit with more low speed corners than on a circuit like this," he said.
"The Sauber should be very strong this weekend. It's not really a secret that they have a very good car with a lot of downforce. Sometimes it's a bit of a surprise to see them so far back after a weekend where they've been very strong.
"That just fits into the whole picture of this season being quite unpredictable."
Vettel, who currently lies 29 points behind Fernando Alonso with six races left, also expressed confidence that he could overhaul the Spaniard without having to rely on Ferrari retirements.
"Obviously I don't want any bad fortune to hit others and help us. I think we are confident and believe we can do it on the track," he added.
"I was confident and believing at the last race, for example, that we had a similar pace to Lewis (Hamilton). It would have been difficult to overtake him on the track but I felt more happy in the last two stints of the race than the first one, so I think we could have a chance.
"But you never know. In that case, obviously he retired and we took first position. For the next races, we have to focus on ourselves and whatever happens, happens."