Vettel: Rivals’ times are irrelevant
SEBASTIAN Vettel insists he is confident in Ferrari's chances ahead of the new F1 season, denying his 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 the 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," Vettel said.
"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," Vettel said.
"And, as I said before, I have confidence in our car."
Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso has admitted he contemplated quitting F1 last year amid McLaren's Honda turmoil.
However, the two-time world champion said he ultimately decided not to finish his F1 career on a low note as he would "regret it for the rest of my life".
"I did think about the possibility of changing series and stopping Formula 1," he said.
"After I did the Indy 500 last year, when I came back there were a couple of races in Austria, Silverstone, when I thought 'maybe next year I could try a different series; I could do full commitment to the triple crown and do Indy and Le Mans and maybe that's the best thing'.
"But I felt it was not the time for me to step out, not right now, not after these results, not with this feeling. I knew I would regret it for the rest of my life and that I would have this bad taste for the rest of my racing career."
Alonso has finished on an F1 podium 97 times but not since July 2014 during his final season at Ferrari, where he grew tired of the team's failure to win the title world title.
But a return to McLaren has so far seen him slip further adrift of frontrunning contention with the Woking team enduring three trying years with Honda. They have now switched to Renault power for 2018.
"Definitely I still want to succeed," Alonso said.
"There is unfinished business for me and McLaren together. And I think this year is the time all these things will change. I feel pretty sure about that."
McLaren's first pre-season with Renault proved inconclusive, with Alonso setting the third-quickest time of the winter on the final day but only after the MCL33 suffered five separate on-track breakdowns.
Alonso, who retired from 11 races last season, is expecting to return to "normality" when the new season begins in Australia next week after three years he admits have been "difficult".
"To be honest with you, it has not been easy," he said.
"There have been ups and downs, highs and lows. Not in the race weekend itself, because when you go through practice and you start the meetings with engineers, prepare your qualifying runs and so on, the competitive sportsman inside you wakes up and you are ready to take any challenge.
"But between races it has been difficult. I had to push little bit more myself to stay focused and to stay in the game. I don't like losing, I like winning, in anything I do in life not only motorsport, so every Sunday night when I've been getting back from a race, I have not been happy."