- Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel says the team will not be as quick as last year
- The German has won the world championship in each of the last two seasons
- Vettel has set his sights on a record-equaling third drivers' title in a row
- The 24-year-old says the sport should not expand beyond a 20-race calendar
Red Bull have been untouchable for the last two Formula One seasons, but their double world champion driver Sebastian Vettel has warned the team's 2012 car will be slower than last year's model.
Vettel, F1's youngest two-time champion having won the drivers' crown in 2010 and 2011, also expects this season's title race to be much tighter, after he took the checkered flag in 11 of 19 grands prix last year.
"Last season the way we incorporated the exhaust was very cleverly devised," the 24-year-old told the sport's official website. "It made the car faster by generating more grip, but it's a thing of the past in 2012 and for now we have to live with it.
"I would say that goes for all the other teams as well. We are looking into ways of getting that grip level back and I am sure we will succeed, although it will take time.
"Of course we hope to do it again this season. My guess is that the performance of the cars will be even closer this year, especially the gap between the front-running teams and the midfield. We will probably even see a few surprises."
If the German could take the championship in 2012, he would join Argentina's Juan Manuel Fangio and compatriot and seven-time title winner Michael Schumacher as the only men to have won the sport's biggest prize three years in a row.
"I wasn't aware that only two drivers have done it," he said. "But as the saying goes, three's a charm, so let's try to do it again this year!"
Vettel will be in distinguished company on the grid when the season begins in Australia next month, with six former world champions competing in the same season for the first time.
Alongside him will be Schumacher at Mercedes, McLaren's title-winning British duo of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, Ferrari's two-time winner Fernando Alonso and the returning 2007 champion Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus.
"As it has never happened before, it is something very special," he said. "And to be one of those six feels even better. But then again, this is something that points to the past and has nothing to do with the next 20 races, as it doesn't make you any faster.
"It is a new game when we start on the Melbourne grid. Past glory is great to have, but you have to make sure that it reaches into the here and now."
The forthcoming season is scheduled to be the longest in the elite division of motorsport's 52-year history, with 20 races on the calendar.
Vettel was not overly concerned by the addition of an extra race, with the U.S. Grand Prix returning in Austin in November, but he felt no further additions should be made to the schedule in the future.
"Twenty races is indeed a huge workload but to be honest whether it's 19 or 20 races doesn't make any real difference. There are few sports with such a long season, so I would suggest that we all just roll up our sleeves.
"I think it will be important to pace yourself cleverly and you will probably have to use the phrase 'thanks, but no thanks' more often. You can't have your finger in every pie, however alluring it may look."