Sebastian Vettel joined Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Daniel Ricciardo at the first press conference before the beginning of the 2017 Formula 1 season. Scuderia Ferrari looks set for a strong start at the Australian Grand Prix, but the German driver says that for the moment it is impossible to predict a Ferrari title challenge, adding that the Italian team should carefully manage expectations going into 2017.
Ferrari arrives at the Australian Grand Prix as many people’s favourites for the championship after two very impressive pre-season testing sessions at the Catalunya Circuit in Barcelona. Lewis Hamilton frequently stated as much during the winter, with many expecting a closer fight at the front this year following three years of unmatched Mercedes dominance.
Sebastian Vettel, however, explains that there are too many unknowns with 2017’s bigger, faster cars for anyone to make an accurate prediction about the pecking order at this early moment. When asked if he felt the SFH70 felt like the sort of car he would challenge for the title with, Seb replied: “Well, it’s March now, so… If you are in the fight for the title it is a question for October, November. Looking at the performance of the cars it was expected to be a big step up and that’s how it felt on the track. I think that’s what we all said when we got out of the car, that it’s a big step forward, so it’s not entirely fair to judge to the previous years because it’s a different formula and it will be the fastest cars we’ve ever driven.”
“Naturally since the day I got into Formula One the cars got faster and faster and they tend to stall a little bit. We distributed cornering speed versus cornering speed. For us what really gives us a good feeling is cornering speed and we’re back to the level we were ten years ago and maybe a bit faster. So for us it’s nice to have the feeling you’re driving the fastest cars you’ve ever driven. On competitiveness we’re all here to find out – we’re here to go racing.” – Vettel added.
Qualifying has been a major problem for Scuderia Ferrari during recent years, with just five pole positions in the 2010s and the German driver is perfectly aware of the fact that a solution is absolutely necessary if the Maranello side wish to fight with Mercedes and Red Bull for the titles: “We have worked on all areas trying to improve but we all know qualifying is important to have a good race, so the higher up you qualify the better chances you have in the race. Statistically doesn’t look that good, so hopefully we can turn that around. Last year was closer (with teammate Kimi Raikkonen) than the year before but it’s always been fairly close. Obviously, I want to be in front of him and he wants to be in front of me, but starting the season priority number one is that hopefully we are in front of the others.” – Sebastian Vettel concluded, as reported by the the official statements from the press conference ahead of the 2017 Australian Grand Prix.