Sebastian Vettel believes Ferrari proved they are a match for Mercedes after finishing a competitive second at the Chinese Grand Prix.
Vettel, who was edged out for pole position by Lewis Hamilton by 0.186 seconds, draws level with the Brit at the top of the championship after two rounds courtesy of his victory in Australia.
An early stop to switch to soft tyres looked to have put Vettel in the driving seat early in the race, but a safety car for Antonio Giovanazzi’s stricken Sauber gave those in front, including Hamilton, a large enough window to pit for fresh tyres of their own.
Vettel’s stirring comeback came with overtakes on team-mate Kimi Raikkonen and the Red Bull duo of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, before extending an advantage of over half a minute in his pursuit of Hamilton.
“I think that pace-wise we were a match today, sometimes he was faster, sometimes I was: if we can fight with Mercedes also in Bahrain that will be again good news. We can still improve.” said Vettel.
The four-time world champion also admitted he prefers Formula 1’s new ‘difficult’ overtaking, with increased downforce making it harder to follow the car in front in close proximity.
Formula 1’s DRS (Drag Reduction System) has come under criticism in recent years as making passing too ‘easy’ or ‘artificial’.
“I had a tense wheel-to-wheel fight with Ricciardo. I like this way of overtaking, when gaining position comes at a price and not simply by opening up the DRS”.
He also lamented being ‘too conservative’ in his approach to the start of the Grand Prix, with changeable conditions over Shanghai convincing the majority of the field to begin on intermediate tyres before a switch to drier compounds.
He conceded, however, that the race result may have still swung in Hamilton’s court despite the mistake.
“Conditions were tricky at the start, you never know what can happen in those moments, so I was perhaps a bit too conservative,
“Then we chose to change tires since the track was quickly drying out, so that we could take advantage from the slicks; but luck was not on our side as the safety car came in right after,
“I can’t say how much this affected the final result, it was still a long way from there to the finish, but I think it had an effect.”
The championship heads straight to the Sakhir International Circuit in Bahrain for it’s third round next weekend.