The second race of the 2017 Formula One season is almost upon us with the Chinese Grand Prix the next race on the calendar. Ferrari backed their showing from pre-season testing and managed to win the 2017 Australian Grand Prix, which was their first win since the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix. But despite proving to be the faster car, Sebastian Vettel said ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix that Mercedes are still the favourites.
Ferrari have struggled to keep up with the pace of Mercedes in the last few seasons but after Vettel won the opening race of the season, the Formula One universe feels that the Italian team could be back to their best and could once again dominate the sport. But Vettel said winning one race does not prove anything and that Ferrari will still have to work very hard to keep up with Mercedes through the season.
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"I think Mercedes has to be still the favourite. Obviously we had a very strong first race, but I think at least the way we look at it inside the team, we really go race by race. We know we have a good package, which puts us in a strong place, but there's lots of things we need to do to keep up with them and keep the position that we are in now to fight for good races," ESPN quoted Vettel as saying.
Lewis Hamilton also gave his opinion ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix and said that there is very little to choose between Ferrari and Mercedes this season.
"At the end of the day they won the race and did a better job, so we've just got to do a better job. But I think it is very close. Pace-wise in qualifying it's very close, in the race he was able to keep up with me. There are going to be races where that fluctuates, where perhaps they're ahead and we're behind or we're ahead and they're behind," Hamilton said.
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Throughout pre-season testing, Vettel and Hamilton have both been saying that each other's team are the favourites to win the driver's and constructors championship this season. Hamilton even said that Ferrari were hiding their true pace during pre-season testing and that turned out to be true as Mercedes admitted after the Australian Grand Prix that they were beaten by Ferrari's pace rather than a strategy mistake of their own.
Vettel, who is a four-time F1 champion, said that their win in Australia might not be an accurate form guide for Shanghai this weekend and that the difference inside the Ferrari camp this season as compared to last season was tangible.
"It is completely different. The weather is completely different looking outside now. It is always a grand prix full of surprises. In 2007, my first race here, I started 17th in the Toro Rosso and finished fourth. We had the rain helping us at that time. You never know what happens around here. It is a demanding track for tyres and cars in particular and also drivers - so it's difficult to predict anything," Vettel said.
"After one race it's easy to say this year is better than last year, but it is only one race. The team has evolved, we are generally in a better position, people are more comfortable. We are more confident in the way we work now and hopefully we can keep up the trend to show it on track."