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Sebastian Vettel Q&A: Ferrari 'confident' of taking fight to Mercedes

17 Mar 2016

Sebastian Vettel did his best to take the fight to Mercedes in 2015, winning three times in an excellent first season with Ferrari, but in the end he couldn’t quite overcome the irrepressible Silver Arrows for the championship. Expectations have naturally ratcheted up another notch this year, but with a positive pre-season behind him, Vettel has arrived in Melbourne confident that at the very least Ferrari will be a lot closer to their chief rivals than they were at the tail-end of the last campaign…

Q: Sebastian, finally it’s time for the 2016 season to kick off! For somebody like you who has been in the sport so long, is the season opener still something special?

Sebastian Vettel: Absolutely! Especially as right now you don’t know where you stand. Come mid-season when the picture is clearer the excitement gives way to routine – but now it is thrilling to the max! (laughs) Yes, we do have a pretty confident feeling – but we also know that the task we’ve set ourselves is fairly ambitious. There is no doubt that we will give it all!

Q: So let’s speak about your feelings. The fans expect a fierce fight between you and the two Mercedes drivers. What’s your guess about this weekend? Is that already feasible here?

SV: Ah, that is difficult to say. It also depends on what steps you’ve been able to pull off since the last test. What I do believe is that we can be closer in the race than we were in the last races of 2015. With 21 races the season is extremely long – if I am right the longest season ever – so we do have a bit of time should the start not be one hundred percent perfect. But of course I hope that we will give the fans good battles…

Q: Here in Australia? Wheel-to-wheel?

SV: In an ideal world not wheel-to wheel but in front! But let’s stay grounded and see what the practice sessions bring. Then we all see a bit clearer.

Q: How much did the winter differ from your previous winters?

SV: Not much difference because you still want to tick all the boxes – but then of course it is a brand new car. Not only what you see on the outside but also a brand new ‘inner life’ and that sometimes gives you tasks that you have to cope with. In the end, the state of affairs right now, I think we can be pretty confident!

Q: The whole team was very stoked about your enthusiasm for work – putting in long hours with them for the sake of success…

SV: …of course! We have a big goal that we want to achieve together. We knew that we had to get better as the gap last season was too big – so it all came naturally.

Q: Ferrari has enticed renowned engineer Jock Clear from rivals Mercedes. How would you describe him?

SV: Very structured and with a lot of experience. Definitely a gain for the team!

Q: [Ferrari chairman] Sergio Marchionne has frequently said that the time is now to see success. You’re heading into your second year with Ferrari – is the pressure different?

SV: Well, last season was of course different as the team came from a difficult 2014 season and the expectations were not too high – and if there were expectations then we exceeded them. But when you finish in P2 in the constructors’ championship it is natural that you want to make that final step to P1! And then you start to talk about wanting to be at the front and switch roles: from hunter to hunted! We’ve never made that a secret and will do anything to make it happen.

Q: So the goal is to become champion in 2016?

SV: That was it already in 2015. If you don’t start with that goal you are in the wrong place. I would find it difficult to motivate myself just only by being there.

Q: So Eva turned into Margherita. What’s behind giving your car that name? People joke about a pizza…

SV: Margherita was an Italian queen – and queens wear crowns and I hope that we also can crown our 2016 car at the end of the season!

Q: What qualities do you look for in Margherita?

SV: That it will be at the very front of the standings after the final race. The rest I really don’t mind! (laughs)

Q: There will be a new qualifying format from this weekend. How much did you prepare for that?

SV: Of course you try to analyse what it means. The fact that nobody really knows how it will be in reality is not a very positive situation as it brings a bit of confusion. But now we all have to deal with it and late Saturday afternoon we will know if it works. What I really do hope is that at the end of qualifying it’s still the fastest driver who is on pole position. That is in the end all that matters – in the interests of the sport.