Sebastian Vettel has played down the importance of the first race of the 2016 Formula 1 season, saying that his championship bid does not hinge on the result of the Australian Grand Prix.
Vettel led Ferrari’s revival in 2015, claiming three race wins en route to third place in the drivers’ championship behind the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
Ferrari is expected to put up a greater challenge for both titles in 2016, but Vettel was cautious when speaking at the Pirelli tire test in France earlier this week.
“It’s natural that we all want to win – the team is quite big, there’s a lot of people and if you ask everyone, I think our target is to win,” Vettel said.
“We know it’s very ambitious, we know that the gap has been quite big last year. I think we did a good job over the season to come closer.
“This year we have some changes and we will have to see. Obviously the testing is crucial to start on the right foot and then we go from there.
“But Australia is one race from 21. If you win there, it’s great. If not, you try to finish as close as possible to the top step and collect as many points. And after that it’s a long year.”
Vettel completed 134 laps behind the wheel of the SF15-T on Tuesday at Paul Ricard, and said he found the test useful despite it offering little in the way of information for the new season.
“It’s always useful to drive a car,” Vettel said. “It was fun, even if, with a lot of different prototype tires, you may get different results, without knowing which tires we are testing, or if they are going to be used in the future or not.
“You can have a rough idea which tires you test and how the tires were last year, but it’s not clear what’s going to happen with the tires after this, even if for sure there are some results, but it’s too early to say.”