Scuderia Ferrari German driver Sebastian Vettel said that Mercedes’ Formula 1 engine’s qualifying mode has less of an advantage over Ferrari’s in the start of the 2018 season. Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton beat the two Scuderia Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel by more than six tenths of a second in the qualifying session for the Australian Grand Prix, which led Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo to admit that the Mercedes was so good any top driver could take pole position in it.
Mercedes’ power unit has been more potent than its rivals, especially in the final part of qualifying, ever since F1 adopted V6 turbo-hybrid engines in 2014. Sebastian said that in Australia Mercedes “didn’t do anything special – not more than they did last year, probably even a bit less by the looks of it”. I think they did turn it up for Q3 but not by seven-tenths,” said Vettel, who turned the tables on Sunday as a result of a perfect strategic decision, by taking advantage of a pitstop during a virtual safety car period.
“Probably if you look at qualifying carefully, it’s fair to say they were quick in Q1, quicker than us, Lewis was quick in Q2 and then his second run, I don’t know, something happened. So, his last run in Q3 was the only proper run at the end, and he had a clean run, and I don’t think the gain that he had in time was down to engine. Probably a tenth, a little bit more, but not seven tenths. So, the credit is for his lap that he did and not for the engine power.” – the German driver added.
Scuderia Ferrari was stronger on the straights in Australia and reckoned to be gaining around three-tenths over Mercedes in qualifying, although it also opted for less downforce as well. Seb admitted that the Maranello team was lucky to win the 2018 season opener and is not a match for Mercedes at present, describing its new car as “a bit too conscious” and saying “let’s hope I get to think less, and we need to think less, in the next races”.
Asked if victory gave him more satisfaction after Hamilton’s comments on Saturday, Sebastian replied: “Not really. He said he was joking and I believe him. I don’t think we need to go on that sort of level. It’s fine as long as we joke with each other and apart from a point last year, we don’t have a problem with each other. Even if we are very different persons, I think we share – all of us – a common passion and that makes us quite equal again. We love racing and we try to do our best, once we’re in the car and beat all the others. In that regard, I don’t see why we shouldn’t get on with each other.” – Scuderia Ferrari’s German driver concluded.