Sebastian Vettel is refusing to write off his chances of taking a fifth title this year, insisting it is a "long" season.
Although Vettel and his Red Bull team dominated the Championship in recent years, taking four successive Championship doubles that included a run of nine straight race wins to finish off last season, they faltered in pre-season testing.
Vettel barely reached double figures on any one stint in his RB10 while breaking down was more common that putting in a hot lap.
Red Bull finished the final test in Bahrain with less than half the number of laps completed by Williams with Vettel down in 18th place on the timesheets, eight positions behind his new team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.
The team's woes have led to many predicting that Vettel's reign is over.
The 26-year-old, though, has warned against counting him out of the running, adamant that in the space of a season there is time for teams to fight back.
Asked if he had written off his chances of securing a fifth successive title, Vettel said: "I think that's not fair to say because it's a long year.
"I think our pre-season testing and preparation has not been ideal and we're probably not in the best position for this race but it is a different story when we talk about the Championship. It's a long way to go.
"Two years back, Fernando (Alonso) was on the grid with 1.5 seconds to pole position and he was very close to beating us to the title at the very last race.
"So anything can happen, that's why this race is important just like any other one. There are a lot of races still to go."
The German, though, did concede that Red Bull will go into the season with a lot of problems still to iron out and therefore will race a "very different" car to the one ran during the final test in Bahrain.
"It will be a very different car. We had a lot of problems during the test so we didn't get to test a lot of stuff and we'll hopefully do more running here and put the parts on the car that we think are better for overall performance.
"There are a lot of things to solve and unfortunately you can't solve them overnight. We are just going step-by-step, but at the moment it's a bit unknown where we are.
"It's not a secret that you need very, very strong reliability to be a title contender. I'm looking forward to Sunday to see where we are."
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