Sebastian Vettel: Mercedes still the team to beat despite Ferrari’s pace

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Sebastian Vettel believes that Mercedes remains the team to beat in Formula 1 despite Ferrari’s strong showing through pre-season testing.

Mercedes enters 2017 chasing a fourth straight championship double, having claimed the drivers’ and constructors’ crowns every year since 2014.

Even with a change in the technical regulations for the coming season, Mercedes remains the favorite to win both titles ahead of the opening round in Australia on March 26.

Ferrari has impressed through pre-season testing, with Vettel recording the fastest time of the winter on Thursday and having more pace in hand.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has said that Ferrari is “bluffing”, hiding its pre-season pace, but Vettel played down Ferrari’s showing, stressing that Mercedes is still the team out front.

“I think we’re focusing on our stuff here. It’s important, there’s a lot of stuff on our list,” Vettel said.

“We’re probably still a little bit behind. There’s a lot of stuff to do and a lot of boxes to be ticked. In Melbourne, we’ll see, obviously it’s a very special type of track.

“I think we’ve learned in the past that Barcelona is important, to give an indication. For sure the car is much better than last year because the nature of the formula has changed. So far things are making sense, but it’s still early days.

“If you look at the amount of laps Mercedes has done, historically how slow they were going in the tests, and how much they were able to ramp it up for the races. It’s clear that they are very fast, if you look at their long-run pace, I think they’re the ones to beat.

“It doesn’t really matter where we are now. We are growing, we need to work hard, we know that we had to improve and that’s why I think it’s important not to get distracted right now.”