Q: Sebastian, it is the time of the year to reflect on the season, and what a special season it must have been for you racing for Ferrari - and ticking all the boxes on the shortlist. Can you say what the highlights - and lows - have been?
Sebastian Vettel: Let’s start with the low point - that was for sure the race in Mexico. But that is history so I don’t want to let any thoughts of it come back to my memory! The highlights - there have been many! To start counting down: the podium in Melbourne was very unexpected and very welcomed. It was the perfect start to a 'new life'! And then immediately winning the next race - Malaysia - that was almost too good to be true. So if you look at the statistics - I know the media loves that - it reads before the very last race: 13 times on the podium! Three wins, three P2 finishes and seven times going home with P3 - not bad! In fact, every time when we had the chance to win, we did!
Q: Did you have the slightest idea that the year would be so positive - and that you’d almost tick the vice-champion box?
SV: Of course not. The team was in a very different state than it is now. I was new and did not know what to expect. So from both sides - the team’s and mine - we met or rather exceeded both our expectations.
Q: You’ve always said that the team spirit is super at Ferrari, suggesting that at other teams that might not be entirely the case. Could the fact that you and Kimi work smoothly together, whereas the two Mercedes drivers fight each other fiercely on the track, be an advantage for 2016?
SV: It is always hard to say what the real facts are if you are looking from the outside at another team - but yes, Kimi and I get along superbly. That every driver in the end is driving for himself is nothing that needs to be explicitly said - but it is always the ‘how’ that makes the difference. And how you deal with situations off track - that is personal style. I think we have found a very good way.
Q: Ferrari has made a huge leap forward in 2015, but when it comes to fighting not for seconds but for tenths and hundredths of seconds, do you expect that progress to slow down?
SV: Well, I think it is always difficult to close gaps - and we have done that in a rather spectacular way during the season. Of course when the margins are getting smaller it gets more difficult and then it is not so easy to do that during the season, so you better try to sort out things - probably in the architecture of the car - in the winter. But others have the chance as well to develop in the next couple of weeks, so the only way it works to get ahead is to work better - to keep the trend alive that propelled us all season long.
Q: The 2016 Ferrari is the first car where you’ll have an influence on the development. What was important for you?
SV: It was first of all clear that we have to raise the game because we want to be at the very front. To go through details would be inappropriate, but we know where our weaknesses are and many others know that as well, so we will concentrate on that. One thing was significantly different to 2015: to go into the 2016 season will mean a lot more calmness. Last year at the same time the team was pretty clueless and irritated about the direction they would go. That is all past now. Now the structure of the team is settled - and that helps a lot in preparing for a new season. We all have a big common goal and everybody is prepared to give their utmost.
Q: Maurizio Arrivabene (Ferrari team principal) made a promise that he would walk barefoot to Maranello should Ferrari win four times this year. Sunday is the last chance to get that fourth win, but today the gap to Mercedes was over seven-tenths of a second. Will we see him walking?
SV: It’s only Friday! The good news is that we’ve managed to do our stuff and are reasonably happy. Yes, Mercedes was strong here last year, but my guess is that we also have the potential to find time overnight and close the gap more tomorrow. But miracles usually don’t happen overnight - only in fairy tales! (laughs) We were close in Brazil and if we could be as close as we were there - that would be super.
Q: You have a good track record here in Abu Dhabi - you’ve won three of the six races you’ve started. Will that make a difference?
SV: Usually past laurels never make a difference in an actual fight! We will for sure improve tomorrow. Where it takes us on Sunday - who knows!