Sebastian Vettel: Ferrari yet to unlock very strong car

Sebastian Vettel has asserted that Ferrari has a “very strong” package in Formula 1 this season, that it is yet to fully optimise, in the wake of its third straight defeat by Mercedes.

Ferrari displayed eye-catching pace through pre-season but has so far only shown table-topping performance in Bahrain, having trailed Mercedes in Australia and China.

But it failed to convert its pace advantage in Bahrain owing to Vettel’s spin, which dropped him to fifth, and the engine problem that slowed Charles Leclerc’s car.

Mercedes’ trio of 1-2 results has given it a 57-point advantage over Ferrari, which has so far taken two 3-5s and a 3-4.

“We have a very strong car, there’s nothing wrong with it but I think we’re not able to yet put it in the window, especially for myself, here and there,” said Vettel, without a win since last August's Belgian Grand Prix.

“I’m not entirely happy yet compared to where we started off.

“Obviously the three tracks we’ve been to now are quite different. The conditions we had are different – but I think we start to see a sort of pattern and understand what – especially throughout a grand prix distance – understand what we need, what I need, to really unlock this car.

“I think these couple of weeks and the next weeks will be very important for us to understand where we need to go in the next months.”

Vettel went on to stress that there is “nothing wrong” with either Ferrari’s chassis or engine and reiterated that optimising its set-up is the primary target.

“I think, at this point, it’s a question of putting it together,” he said.

“Obviously Mercedes had a good run with the first three races. I think in Australia we struggled with the conditions, and probably set-up. I think we learned our lessons for Bahrain, it was a lot better.

“Still, here and there, there are some parts of the race where we are too weak. And I think it showed again [in China].

“So, I think we can be very happy with where we are on the engine side. It seems to be strong.

“I think overall our car is working and there’s nothing wrong with it – but I think it’s just about placing it in the right window and then being able to extract the performance that the car has, which I think Charles was able to show in Bahrain more than myself.

“It seems to be there somewhere but at the moment seems to be a bit more difficult to find where it is, to be able to be a fair match to Mercedes at this point.”