Sebastian Vettel insists he is confident in Ferrari’s chances ahead of the new F1 season, denying that the team are concerned about Mercedes and Red Bull’s pace from pre-season testing.
Coming off a much-improved 2017 season in which they were Mercedes’ closest challengers for the title, it was an encouraging two-week test for Ferrari as they comfortably clocked the fastest times in Barcelona.
This one-lap speed, however, was offset slightly by the fact their main rivals opted against revealing their true qualifying pace while, perhaps more worryingly, some paddock calculations projected that both Mercedes and Red Bull were ahead of the Scuderia on the longer runs.
But Vettel, aiming for a fifth world championship this year, doubted this would be the case at the season-opening Australian GP in two weeks’ time, hinting that these race simulation times were irrelevant.
“Our competitors – Mercedes and Red Bull – used one type of tyre for their race distance simulations, which is something you can’t do in a Grand Prix,” said the German, referencing their long medium tyre stints.
“This has an impact on the strategies and ultimately on the result.”
Though unable to directly compare Ferrari’s shorter runs to certain others, Vettel, who is anticipating another rivalry with Lewis Hamilton this year, is also optimistic about the potential of his new car.
Despite the unusual sight of smoke in the pit lane, it was another reliable winter as Ferrari completed the second most amount of laps behind Mercedes.
“We did not experience any major issues with the car, and I had fun driving it,” added Vettel. “I think we’re starting from a good base with our SF71-H.
“Now we’ll have to work on development to further explore and improve its potential. I have a lot of confidence in our team, I know how skilled and committed the guys in Maranello are.”
Red Bull’s Christian Horner claimed world champions Mercedes were “very much the favourites” ahead of the start of the season in Melbourne, but can Vettel and Ferrari repeat their 2017 race victory?
“I can’t wait to be in Australia, because once we get on track there, we will all be driving and racing under the same conditions,” he explained.
“And, as I said before, I have confidence in our car.”
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(c) Sky News 2018: Sebastian Vettel not worried about Mercedes and Red Bull’s test pace