Abu Dhabi: Sebastian Vettel lightheartedly claimed he and Ferrari can definitely give Mercedes a run for their money and enjoy a ‘walk in the park’ next season if they can match or improve on their progress of 2017.
“Well, I think if we can do a similar step for next year and don’t get me wrong, it’s a joke and Germans don’t like to joke so much, it should be a walk in the park,” said Vettel grinning at the drivers’ news conference sitting alongside Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo ahead of the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Vettel, blowing his chance to win the Drivers’ Championship with reliability issues and mistakes on the track up to the Mexican Grand Prix, responded well in Brazil to show both he and Ferrari have plenty to offer in the coming campaign.
It was his third career victory in Brazil to end his own winless streak, which had lasted seven races and stretched back to Hungary in July.
“What I want to say by that is the steps made this year have been incredible,” he said. “The way the team came out with a competitive car at the beginning, the way we have improved both chassis, engine has been outstanding.”
The German with five wins in 2017, four less than Hamilton, is virtually assured of second position in the drivers’ championship, holding a 22-point advantage over Valtteri Bottas heading to the Abu Dhabi season finale.
Vettel didn’t have any hesitation in accepting that the best man won in 2017 but warned that Ferrari will pose Hamilton and Mercedes tougher challenge next year. He had led the championship at the halfway stage but lost his way after a series of setbacks in the Asia leg of the calendar that allowed Hamilton to run away with the his fourth title with two races to spare.
“Lewis probably made fewer mistakes and the best man won in the end,” Vettel said. “It has been close for most of the year but not close enough when it mattered.
“We are completely fired up now. It has been bitter but I think it has been positive that we have had a couple of good races this year to approach and look forward to next season.”
Vettel added there are promising projects in the pipeline with Ferrari. Some will take time, some will be quite soon.
“The winter gives everyone the opportunity to do everything a lot better, that’s what everyone sets out to do, and we’ll see who achieves that,” he said. “But I’m confident we have the right people on board.”
Vettel has won here in Abu Dhabi in 2009, 2010 and 2013. but all his victories came for Red Bull and Ferrari are yet to win in the capital.
Vettel also shared the same views as his arch-rival Hamilton on the ‘Halo’ cockpit protection device, designed to prevent flying debris hitting the drivers, which will be used next season.
“I think the cars will look different next year,” he said. “Everything I’ve seen so far looks different, but on the other hand, I think it’s something we will all get used to. It’s no doubt the cars look better the way they are now, but I’m sure that we’ll get used to it. We’ll work on the aesthetics so that it will look fine. In the end, it’s probably less of a big deal.”