The 2018 Formula 1 season as been a bit of a roller coaster wherein both Mercedes and Ferrari has surprised each other on different circuits which is why Sebastian Vettel feels his car is never hugely faster than his rival’s.
It has been a neck and neck competition between Ferrari and Mercedes in 2018 where it is not the cars but the mistakes from either side is what will decide the champions for both the constructors’ and the drivers’.
So far, Mercedes has been able to outclass Ferrari in that deparatment which is why they sit 37 points ahead in the constructors’ standings while Lewis Hamilton is 40 points ahead in the drivers’ championship.
The mind games were already on in the middle of the season where Hamilton and even Toto Wolff smartly regarded their rival’s having the quicker car with the increased power shown from the Italian manufacturer.
However, both Maurizio Arrivabene and Vettel tried to play it down and the German reiterated the same after the Singapore GP, stating that he never believed Ferrari to have the fastest car ‘by a big margin’.
“[If you see] Lewis said he didn’t expect to come here [Singapore] gaining ten points, we probably didn’t come here expecting to lose ten points – but, having had the race that we had, I think there’s a full justification for losing those ten points and we take it.
“Obviously, there is still a long way to go and a lot of points to score. I never believed that we had the fastest car by a big margin, as people said. I know that we have a very good car. I think we started the season well.
“Then we were about half a second behind in qualifying and it was crucial to get back, which we manage to – and then we had a bit of a rough time but overall I think the speed is there but I think it’s a match in qualifying as much as in the race.
“If anything, I think we were a little bit slower [in Singapore GP], which we need to have a look and understand – but also it’s difficult to draw the conclusion because our race, my race was very different.
“I was on the oldest tyres and probably on the tyre that was not supposed to last that long. You would probably like to go out and do the same stint on the same tyres, just to be able to compare – but that’s not the race that we had.”
Ferrari’s strategies has been criticised off-late and it was the same case in Singapore where they put Vettel on ultrasoft tyres in what was described as the aggressive choice. The German sounded low on the radio as well but post race, he defended the call.
“I think first of all we’re not playing a silly game, we’re quite serious and it’s quite tough competition, so the level of competition is very high and if you have the slightest mistake obviously there are people there who are usually there to benefit from it,” he said.
“[In Singapore GP] we had showed that Max [Verstappen] was there straightaway to benefit. Maybe sometimes you are lucky and it’s not showing as crucial but today it caught us and what we tried didn’t work and also caught us out so it didn’t help.
“But I’m happy to try, I’m happy to try being aggressive to try and win. That was the ambition and especially on a track where it’s difficult to pass you need to try and figure something out. Overall, I think it’s not the result that we wanted.
“It’s a disappointment because we came here thinking that we are very strong. I think we were but not strong enough, not as strong as we probably wanted to be in terms of raw race pace. I still believe we could have had a better day [in qualifying].
“It’s history so – same as [the race now] – we need to look forward. There are a couple of differences that are standing out [in the weekend], things that we can learn from the others, because they simply did a better job if they finish ahead of us by half a minute.”
The German also ruled out the FP2 hit where he was forced to miss a chunk of the session, as the reason for the lack of confidence and performance. He said that they have done enough to understand the characteristics of the car on the given circuit.
Looking ahead, he felt the confident considering the car he has which has been good all-round in the season so far. “Russia, I think, has been getting better the last years for us, so it should suit our car as well.
“I don’t think we have any tracks to fear that are coming. I think our car is working pretty much everywhere and that’s a strength of our car, so no need to be afraid of what’s coming,” said Vettel.
[Read: Hakkinen on Ferrari failures]