Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel of Germany arrives at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi, on Thursday. Image Credit: AP

Abu Dhabi: Sebastian Vettel is hoping that Ferrari will have the “complete package” in 2019 so that they can challenge the Mercedes might more and take a good shot at the championship.

Ferrari started the 2018 season with lot of promise of challenging Mercedes for the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships. Four-time champion Vettel gave defending champion Lewis Hamilton an early challenge by winning the opening two races in Australia and Bahrain followed by wins in Canada and Britain. However, the slide started once the German spun in the rain in his home GP while in the lead. Vettel won in Belgium again but thereafter it was struggle.

“I think it will be about the complete package as certainly we had over moments this year where we had strong races,” said 31-year-old, who has won here in Abu Dhabi three times with Red Bull in 2009, 2010 and 2013. “There were also races where we weren’t strong and quick enough. And overall it is the speed that decides and more often than not we were lacking a bit of speed. I think we are working very hard and the motivation is there.

“I think it’s what everybody tries to do is to finish well but certainly after a season with highs but also with lows I think it would great to finish on a high.”

Vettel will have a new partner in Charles Leclerc for the 2019 season as replacement for Kimi Raikkonen, who is moving to Sauber on a two-year contract. Leclerc is a Ferrari Driver Academy graduate and will become the first product of the programme to drive for the Italian team in F1. Despite the change, Vettel is confident that his equation and job in the team doesn’t change much.

“I think I tried to beat Kimi, Kimi tried to beat me,” he said. “I think it doesn’t matter who you are racing in the team, you always try to win and that means you also beat whoever is driving with you in the same team, so I don’t think that changes.

Kimi Raikkonen
Kimi Raikkonen of Scuderia Ferrari addressing the media ahead of Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on Thursday. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

“Obviously Charles is different to Kimi so we will see how it goes but I think he’s a good kid. One thing for sure that I enjoyed a lot in the last years is the mutual respect that we have to each other. I think we never had to deal with anything between ourselves so that made it easier for me, easier for him, I guess, and easier for the team. But I’m not expecting anything in that direction from Charles. I think he’s a good kid.”

Raikkonen is leading Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas by 14 points in the Drivers’ Championship and that means the battle for the third place is still on. However, Raikkonen is not worried much about where he finishes anymore now that it is his last race with the Ferraris

“I don’t think it’s changing my world any way. If I end up third, I think we need to go wherever the prize giving is so it’s a negative thing in the end, you know, more travelling but we’ll see,” laughed Raikkonen, who went on to reveal that he is not sure what he will be missing after ending eight-year stint with Ferrari.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Obviously I had this leaving them once already so it’s not a new thing. I’m not sad because I don’t see why we need to be sad. We will stay as friends. We’re going to see a lot of us anyhow in the paddock so not an awful lot changes.

“We’ll both go for new things and I think it’s exciting but we’ve had good times with the team, great people. We’ve had some difficult times, but that’s part of business and I think that’s how it should go. Sometimes it needs to be a bit hard. No, obviously I won the championship with them, as a driver. We twice won the team (championship) so I’m very happy to be part of it because there’s not many people who have done it. We will happily go different ways. We’re not that far away from each other and we will keep doing what we do.”