Dominant Vettel paced himself in Australia – Marko image

(Inautonews.com/GMM) Dominant Sebastian Vettel did not play the RB7’s full hand of cards in Melbourne, according to Red Bull motor sport consultant Helmut Marko.

Reigning world champion Vettel got his 2011 defence off to the best possible start at the weekend by easily strolling to pole position and the win.

But some rivals, notably McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, took heart in the fact that he was able to finish just 22 seconds behind the young German whilst nursing a broken floor.

“I can win in this car. I can go for the title. We’ll close the gap on them, no doubt about that,” Hamilton said before leaving Albert Park.

But Marko said Vettel, a vast 8 tenths ahead of Hamilton in qualifying 24 hours earlier, had paced himself in the race.

“Sebastian based himself on his opponents, setting his pace according to the competition — especially Hamilton,” the Austrian told German broadcaster RTL.

“We just wanted the gap for a pitstop or in case the safety car came out,” added Marko. “In the end he was just protecting the tyres.

“We still have some more in it (the car),” he said.

Hamilton’s teammate Jenson Button seemed to acknowledge the possibility that Vettel sandbagged in Australia.

“I don’t know if we are quick enough to challenge the Red Bulls. I don’t know if they were holding something back here,” he told the Guardian.

Niki Lauda told Germany’s Bild newspaper he suspects Vettel will indeed dominate the entire world championship.

“Let’s see what happens next, but I fear it might be boring for us,” said the famous triple world champion. “I see no reason why Malaysia should be any different.”

Ferrari, however, is banking on a surge of form following a disappointing opening salvo in Australia.

“I’m convinced that things will change,” said Felipe Massa, who finished almost a lap behind and was derided as being “so slow” by Button after their long duel.

“Not at any of the winter tests did we go so badly,” he is quoted by Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport.