Sebastian Vettel is confident that Mercedes remains the favorite for both Formula 1 championships in 2017 despite leading Ferrari to victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
Mercedes entered 2017 looking to claim a fourth-straight set of titles, having won over 50 races in the last three years as part of its domination of the V6 hybrid era.
Ferrari enjoyed a strong pre-season and delivered on its winter pace by beating Mercedes in Australia, with Vettel jumping Lewis Hamilton through the pit stops en route to his 43rd F1 win.
Vettel arrives in China expected to challenge for victory once again, but urged caution amid talk of Ferrari competing for its first world title since 2008 by stressing that Mercedes remained the favorite.
“Well I think Mercedes has to be still the favourite. Obviously we had a very strong first race, but I think at least the way we look at it inside the team, we really go race by race,” Vettel said.
“We know we have a good package, which puts us in a strong place, but there’s lots of things we need to do to keep up with them and keep the position that we are in now to fight for good races.”
Vettel’s victory in Australia was both his and Ferrari’s first in 18 months following a winless 2016 campaign, and although the four-time world champion stressed that last season was not as bad as critics have suggested, he admitted it was key to end the drought last month.
“Well it wasn’t that bad last year. It was not the best year we had, but still I think we had a decent amount of podiums,” Vettel said.
“We had races where things were not going our way, but that’s how it goes sometimes. Maybe my memory is wrong, but I remember it better than what people make out of it now.
“For sure it wasn’t the season that we wanted to have, so after one race, it’s easy to say that this year is better than last year, but it’s only one race. It’s the start of the season.
“But for sure, a lot of things have changed since last year, the team has evolved. I think we generally are in a much better position. People are more comfortable throughout the whole team.
“I think the work that is going in is a lot more targeted and overall I think we’re more confident with the way we work now. Hopefully we can keep up that trend to show that on the track.”