Q: Sebastian, the winter test season is over - the next time you sit in the car it counts. Are you satisfied with how it all went?
Sebastian Vettel: Yes. This week was pretty successful after a bit of a bumpy start for Kimi (Raikkonen) on day one. There’ve been no major issues with the car. We’ve done a lot of mileage and have been able to go through our programs as planned. Yep, it was a good test.
Q: What’s your gut feeling: is this car a winner?
SV: That has to be seen. All I can say is that the first impression was good and everything that we’ve built during these two weeks felt very positive. I am very happy with the feeling in the car - but it is difficult speaking about performance and comparing it to the others. But in terms of our own performance we are very happy with the step we’ve made.
Q: Mercedes have done close to 2,000 kilometres more than Ferrari over those eight test days and you were fastest on the ultrasoft tyres - tyres that Mercedes have not used so far. What is a realistic picture?
SV: I think our main objective was simply to feel this new type of tyre. It was very interesting to get a first glance at this new kind of tyre and probably it will be used at one or two races. And that ‘mysterious’ real picture after these two test weeks? I am sure there are pretty precise analyses about the real picture, but then it all depends on the situation.
Q: That sounds as if you would be rather disappointed coming third in Melbourne…
SV: As I said, it depends on the situation. If you start from the very back you would cheer a P3 result - but starting from the very back is not really what’s on our mind. Our declared goal was to close the gap to Mercedes - how successful we have been in that will show in Melbourne.
Q: Friday finally saw Mercedes hit their first real issue of testing when Lewis Hamilton stopped on track with transmission trouble. Did that change your opinion on how strong Mercedes are going into the season?
SV: No, not at all. There are probably one million reasons why you could have a problem with the transmission these days - from software failure to major hardware issues. Even though it would be very interesting to know what the cause was, I am sure they will not do us the favour and publish it! (laughs) Given the laps that they’ve done in these past two weeks, in terms of reliability they look very strong, so I don’t know what their problem was - but it is normal in testing that you run into issues. That is what testing is all about: to find out where your weak spots are.
Q: On Friday you tried the ‘halo’ cockpit protection system. Kimi said that it limited visibility a bit, but surprisingly less than he had expected. Is it a concept that could work in 2017?
SV: Okay, first and foremost you can see what you need to see. But I think we can improve the system in terms of aesthetics and also of how much is in your way. I have also tested that system in the simulator and I am sure we will see evolutions of it very soon. In principle I agree that right now it doesn’t look very nice, but on the other hand if it helps to increase safety then one hundred percent go for it!
Q: Everybody expects - and hopes - to see you frequently splitting the Mercedes cars. How much of that hope will come true?
SV: I hope not more than last year - I hope I will be in front of the two Mercedes! That would be ideal. (laughs) We have tried to close the gap - it was pretty big in recent years. We did a super job last season that brought us closer and now the new car gives us the chance to close the gap even more. How much? We will have to wait at least a couple of weeks - at least.