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Vettel focusing on damage limitation in China

Apr 17, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

F1 Grand Prix of China - Previews Getty Images

Defending Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel has set his sights on a top five finish at this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix as he looks to try and cut the gap to the all-dominant Mercedes team at the front of the field.

The Silver Arrows have claimed all three race wins so far this season, and given the margins of the victories, it is difficult to see either Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg not winning this weekend’s race at the Shanghai International Circuit.

Despite claiming Red Bull’s first ever win in China back in 2009, Vettel is not thinking about a repeat this time around.

“It is a big gap at the moment,” he said. “In Bahrain it looked quite bad for everyone bar Mercedes, but here in China it could be only a little bit different.

“Historically this track was one of the tracks that has favored them, and we can expect them to be strong because of the nature of the track. Also they will be strong because they are in very good shape, which means that they are the favorites going into this race.”

Although Vettel is not totally downbeat about Red Bull’s form, he does believe that the team can only cut a tiny part out of Mercedes’ advantage this weekend, and is therefore hoping to get back into the top five after finishing sixth last time out in Bahrain.

“We expect to have made a step forward, but how big that step is we will see soon,” he explained. “It would be a massive surprise though if we could close the gap.

“We have to be realistic, and take a look at the previous races where we have lost almost one second per lap. To close this gap in one go is hopefully not totally impossible, but also being realistic this is very difficult.

“Being in the top five is what would be good for us.”

The German driver faces the biggest challenge of his Formula 1 career in 2014. After enjoying five years at the top team, the seismic changes made to the regulations have put Red Bull at a disadvantage at the beginning of the year. Red Bull has performed admirably to recover from a disastrous pre-season, but for Vettel it is about picking up what points he can until the team can catch up in the development race.

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