SEPANG, Malaysia, March 29, 2014 (AFP) - World champion Sebastian Vettel said his Red Bull team were "fired up" and ready to challenge Mercedes after he recovered from his recent problems to place second in Malaysian Grand Prix qualifying Saturday.
The German, who qualified 12th at the season-opener in Australia and lasted just a few laps of the race, admitted Mercedes looked superior in the early stages of the year.
But Vettel said he was looking forward to testing Mercedes' pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at a Malaysian race where rain could feature after a deluge delayed qualifying for nearly an hour.
"I'm very happy because we had a bad winter but the team's fired up, the guys are pushing still flat-out," Vettel said.
He added: "I think we always have a chance to beat everybody, that's why we're here. Lewis isn't digging around, equally Nico is doing a very good job so it's difficult to beat them on the day but it's not impossible.
"I think it would be quite sad to wake up in the morning thinking that you can only finish second or fifth or eighth. We're here to win, we know that in rain everything is possible."
Red Bull struggled in pre-season with F1's raft of technical changes, and the championship did not start well when Vettel retired in Australia and Daniel Ricciardo was stripped of second place for a fuel infringement.
But Vettel bounced back from an energy store problem early in Saturday's qualifying to split the Mercedes cars and finish just 0.055sec slower than Hamilton on a wet Sepang track.
And the normally affable 26-year-old showed he was in no mood to play when he berated Australian GP-winner Rosberg for a supposed obstruction in qualifying, a claim his fellow German denied.
Malaysian fans will well remember Vettel's steely side after he ignored team orders and controversially overtook former stablemate Mark Webber in the final stages of last year's race.
"Yesterday was good, today was very good so it should be a good race and I'm keen to find out where we are, where I stand," Vettel said.
"Obviously I haven't (finished) a race since the end of last year, so I'm looking forward to tomorrow."