Champion Vettel eyes repeat performance

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Valencia (Spain), Feb 1 (AFP) Formula One championSebastian Vettel believes he can repeat his record-breakingperformance of last season -- but Red Bull teammate MarkWebber may be the one who stands in his way.

Vettel became the sport''s youngest champion at 23 when hetriumphed in the last Grand Prix of the season, in Abu Dhabiin November, to take the title in dramatic fashion.

Australian Webber, 34, had led the Formula One standingsfor much of the season, finished eighth, and third overall.

For 2011, the British-based, Austrian-funded Red Bull hasretained the pair, who tested the new RB7 car at the RicardoTormo race track near Valencia on Tuesday along with severalother teams.

"We are very lucky in that we have possibly the strongestline-up on the grid," team principal Christian Horner saidTuesday.

He said last season -- in which Red Bull also took theconstructors'' title -- has brought the team "confidence butnot arrogance.

"The team goes into this season very motivated and verycommitted... We achieved some remarkable things last year andthat is our target again".

Vettel said the 2010 season was "a very proud memory. Butnow it''s 2011, and there''s another job to do, so we move tothe next challenge, which is trying to do the same thingagain,

"But we have to develop from how good we were last year.

We need to try to move forward again."

Vettel had locked horns with Webber last season as bothbattled for the title.

Webber - who would have become the first Australian sinceAlan Jones in 1980 to be crowned world champion - was askedTuesday whether he would now be the number two driver at RedBull.

"Nothing has changed, because I have a great opportunitywith a great team to go and get some very good results," hetold reporters.

"Obviously, last year there were some tough times for theteam because we both, or all of us, wanted to keep achievingmore, and it was a new situation to go for the championshipwith two drivers in the same team.

"This is unusual. It doesn''t happen very often in FormulaOne. So let''s hope we can do it again, and maybe this year wehave a different result, I hope."

Horner said the team "supports both drivers withequality, we give both drivers the best chance that wepossibly can," adding that Webber is in "great physical shapeand he will be very very strong this year". More (AFP) AT

Vettel also said he had no thoughts of beating fellow German Michael Schumacher''s world record seven drivers'' titles-- at least for now.

"It will surely take some time," he said. "I think whatMichael did was very special and you don''t set your target towin eight times to be the best guy in history so far."

Schumacher himself was on the Valencia circuit Tuesdayhoping for a better season than the last one, when he failedto reach the podium in 19 Formula One races in 2010 and wascompletely outshone by Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, whofinished the campaign 70 points ahead of the 42-year-oldGerman.

But Mercedes team boss Norbert Haug said the team''s "moresophisticated" new MGP W02 Silver Arrow, unveiled on Tuesday,should help him improve.

"Michael needs to adapt again, it''s a different FormulaOne that he was used to before," Haug said.

"He will have a better year when our car is competitiveand I think we have every reason to believe that we have a carthat will a big step forward compared to last year''s."

In addition to Mercedes and Red Bull, Williams and ToroRosso also showed off their new vehicles Tuesday. That followsFerrari''s launch last Friday, and that of Lotus Renault, TeamLotus and Sauber on Monday.

The new season -- which begins in Bahrain on March 13 --brings the various regulation changes, most notably theintroduction of an adjustable rear wing, and the removal ofdevices such as F-ducts and double diffusers.

This season will also see the return of KERS, a devicethat stores energy created by braking, which can be used toboost power at certain points during the race.

"With KERS, the question is how good and how efficientthe system is," said Vettel. "Obviously, the teams that had itin 2009 have a little bit of an advantage, but we will justhave to work hard on that."

Another important change for 2011 is the introduction oftyres from the Italian company Pirelli, which takes over fromBridgestone as the sport''s sole tyre supplier. (AFP) AT

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