Q: Seb, going back one year when you started at Ferrari and comparing it to your experience today: where do you stand and what’s the difference?
Sebastian Vettel: It is a step forward. It is hard to say more at the moment. Yes, we had a proper day and it was good to get a feel for the car and be able to do some proper laps. So if you ask me I would say the feeling is positive.
Q: 2016 was always said to be an evolution year - but when looking at your car it seems more like a revolution…
SV: Ha, yes, when you look at it from the outside it is pretty different - but also the ‘inner life’ has undergone some significant changes. I would say that many limitations that we had last year seem to [have been] overcome and we should have more possibilities this season.
Q: You have clocked the fastest time today. Not that is says a lot, but it probably adds much to the feel-good factor?
SV: Well, it would matter more to be first in a month’s time and, of course, it is always better to be first than last - but overall it didn’t have so much of significance. What I can say is that we are fairly happy with the car. I did some laps and, of course, it is the nature of things that you always want to do more - and if there are some little glitches (I wouldn’t say problems) you play it safe and stop to see and analyse the situation. And that unfortunately always takes some time.
Q: Compared to your 2015 Ferrari, what is the biggest difference?
SV: To be honest it is pretty difficult to compare because it is quite a while ago that I drove the 2015 Ferrari - and the wet tyre test at Paul Ricard hardly counts as the conditions were… wet! Very wet! What I feel is that it is a very good step forward. But today it was also interesting to see what the others were doing over the winter. We did see a little bit of that today - but my guess is that in the next couple of days most of the teams will put their cards on the table. With only eight days of testing nobody will be sandbagging. That’s my guess, so it will become more and more interesting with every test day.
Q: Did you feel any changes in terms of the power unit? Did it feel different in that respect?
SV: Let me say one thing: it is still a Ferrari engine! (laughs) Yes, we wanted to improve - but when you go back and look, from 2014 to 2015 our guys managed to do a miracle - and who says that miracles don’t last! So right now I can say it is a bit better compared to last year. That’s what I say on the first day of testing.
Q: Something that is new on the Ferrari this year is the pushrod front suspension. Can you say how it feels?
SV: That is probably a better question for the engineers. As a driver I have to say there is nothing that you can do with the new suspension that you weren’t able to do with the old one - or the other way around. All I can say is the front end felt good and that’s good enough for me.
Q: How much do you feel at one with the car - in term of inputs?
SV: Well, overall of course this car is much more ‘developed’, as there haven’t been these huge changes that the team was facing one year ago. With these changes implemented we were able to start this year’s car pretty early - to be able to step up. We ran pretty thorough programs to exactly pinpoint where we’ve been lacking performance - and I would say we’ve improved pretty much everywhere.
Q: Do you think that your team mate Kimi Raikkonen will push you more this season than he did last year - especially after team boss Maurizio Arrivabene’s ‘wake-up call’?
SV: He pushed pretty good but, was probably a bit unlucky at the beginning of last season. It is probably all too human that people’s memory is always very short lived - that they tend to forget. But if you look at the numbers it was rather close between the two of us and it will be close this year.
Q: No one likes to see one team dominate all the time. Can you rise to challenge Mercedes this season?
SV: Believe me I want to win again - races, and the title. The whole of Ferrari is burning to achieve that and we will fight until the very last lap of the very last race! Then let’s see where it took us!