Sebastian Vettel says he still lacks confidence in his Ferrari car despite winning the season-opening Australian GP, admitting he’s not “captain on-board”.
The race rather fell into the four-time world champion’s hands on Sunday as a Virtual Safety Car meant he emerged from his first pit-stop marginally ahead of previous runaway race leader Lewis Hamilton, who was then unable to pass on a tight track.
Ferrari displayed better race pace than indicated in both winter testing and Melbourne practice, with Kimi Raikkonen joining Vettel on the podium.
But Vettel was was not totally convincing – or totally convinced.
“We lack a little bit of pace,” said Vettel, who was third before the opening pit-stops and gained more than 10 seconds on Mercedes thanks to the Virtual Safety Car.
“I lack a little bit of confidence in the car so it’s not yet where we want to be and there’s a lot of work still to do.”
Vettel qualified more than half a second down on Hamilton on the second row and then struggled with the car’s set-up during the race.
“When the balance is changing between stints, I’m not yet completely captain on-board,” he admitted
Mercedes’ rivals-in-chief last season, Ferrari, were widely hailed as having a better all-round car than the world champions. Their 2017 challenger was able to compete and flourish at plenty of different circuits, particularly those favouring more downforce.
But the new car as currently configured is not the flexible, balanced machine that Vettel revelled in last year, and, even though it is faster outright, he is less competitive in it relative both to Mercedes and to team-mate Raikkonen.
“I just didn’t like the feel of it,” Vettel added. “If I don’t feel what I need it’s a bit tricky.”
“The car doesn’t respond the way you like and it’s still sliding in places you don’t want it to slide. I want the car to be spot on when I hit brakes and turn in, and in that window.”
“If I could choose, I would like it a bit different. I think we can live with it but I feel also if we get on top of that then you feel more confident.”
“At the moment, it just feels a bit too conscious.”