Ferrari may have caused a sensation by beating Mercedes to victory in Australia, but the balance resets as F1 moves to the first permanent circuit of 2017 in Shanghai. And while championship leader Sebastian Vettel admits the Silver Arrows may still have a slight advantage in one-lap pace, he says the Scuderia have a new spring in their step - and a new confidence that they can go wheel to wheel with the reigning champions...
Ferrari don't need to hide from Mercedes - Sebastian Vettel Q&A
Yes, Mercedes has a very strong package - but we've also made a leap forward
Q: Sebastian, if you look back to the Melbourne race - to looking down from the podium and seeing your team delightedly singing the Italian anthem - how inspiring is that for this weekend?
Sebastian Vettel: The whole team was extremely happy with the result in Melbourne - including me! And that, of course, triggers everyone's willingness to work even harder. But we are also all aware that it was just one win, and that there is no guarantee that it will go on like this from now on. It was just one step from many that have to be done - but yes, it was in important one!
Q: So how hungry are you for a repeat?
SV: We are all hungry! It was one win, and it tasted wonderful - and now we all want more. I think that is the vibe you feel in the team. More is now the word of the moment. And many projects will be advanced even sooner now.
Q: The whole of Italy went frantic after the win - millions of viewers, a record, watched the repeat. How does that feel?
SV: Of course Ferrari is special in Italy. You feel that pleasantly when things work out perfectly - but you also notice it when things don't go so well! (Laughs) That oscillation between euphoria and doldrums makes it somehow very special - it's the famous Ferrari feel! Of course you want more of the euphoria, that goes without saying.
Q: What is so different now compared to last season?
SV: Hold on: we have only one race under our belt this season, so it would be wise to stay grounded. Yes, true, a lot of things have happened in the team - things that you don't notice from the outside like the internal structure and how the communication has improved, which translates into a smoother flow of proce
Of course Ferrari is special in Italy. You feel that when things work out perfectly - but you also notice it when things don't go so well!
Q: Has winning the first race with these new cars enhanced your affection for 'Gina'?
SV: Well, faster is always better - no question about that. We were also fast last year: I remember that in Mexico we reached 360km/h on the straights. But what is a really sensational feeling is going faster into the corners. And there we have a pace like never before. That's where the fun lays - to go even further to the limit and push yourself harder, without having to think about the tyres or fuel.
Q: The Shanghai track is significantly different to Melbourne. Do you expect a deficit in terms of speed compared to Mercedes?
SV: We will know on Saturday afternoon! But generally we've also made a leap forward in terms of engine power, so we don't need to hide. Yes, Mercedes has a very strong package - you see that in qualifying where I believe that they are still a bit ahead. But a race is always a different matter. I would say that we've been slightly faster - and maybe you can make a difference as well.
Q: Does the driver play a bigger role now?
SV: The driver always makes a difference. Even in the past these cars didn't race by themselves! (Laughs) Sure there are constants that have eternal value: even the best driver will not fight for wins in a bad car. But other than that I believe that drivers influence a race significantly. Yes, probably now even more [than before] as values like high natural speed or the ability to plan your race come to the fore again. Thinking is not the worst advice nowadays!
Q: Your Melbourne win has also electrified fans of F1 - Ferrari beating Mercedes in pure speed. Do you feel that too?
SV: Well, that sounds like we had a terrible, terrible season in 2016. I would say that there have been others with an even worse year, but yes, compared to our plans that we had for 2016 it was a very so-so season. But what was positive was the input that we had in our own development as a team. Probably this is what was visible in Melbourne. And best case scenario: visible the whole 2017 season!