Sebastian Vettel: Mercedes still favourites despite Ferrari win

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel insists that Mercedes remains the favourites in Formula 1 this season, despite his victory in the curtain-raising event in Australia.

Vettel qualified in second place to Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton but overhauled the Briton through the pit stop phase and was never headed thereafter, as he opened the new campaign atop the podium.

However, Vettel has cautioned that Mercedes, which has taken 51 wins and all six world titles since V6 power units were introduced in 2014, must not be underestimated.

“I think Mercedes has to be still the favourite,” Vettel said ahead of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix.

“Obviously we had a very, very strong first race, [but] at least the way we look at it inside the team is we really go race by race.

“We know we have a good package, which puts us in a good place, but we know there’s a lot of things we need to do to keep up with them [Mercedes] and keep the position we are in now to fight for good races.”

Vettel emphasised that work undertaken during Ferrari’s winless 2016 campaign has left it in a “much better position” this year.

“For sure it wasn’t the season we wanted to have [in 2016]; after one race it’s easy to say this year is better than last year but it’s only one race, it’s only the start of the season,” he said.

“But for sure lot of things have changed since last year, the team has evolved, generally we are in a much better position.

“People are more comfortable throughout the whole team, work going in is a lot more targeted and overall we’re more confident with the way we work now.

“Hopefully we can keep up that trend to show it also on track.”

Vettel has only once triumphed in China, when he claimed victory in wet conditions in 2009.