GREGARIOUS SEB: Ferrari's new signing Sebastian Vettel chats to the news media ahead of the 2015 Melbourne Formula 1 GP. Image: AFP / PatrikStollarz.
MELBOURNE, Australia - Sebastian Vettel is convinced Ferrari has a better car than the one that stuttered through a winless 2014 Formula 1 season but has played down his team's chances against Mercedes in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Sunday (March 15).
The four-times champion has joined Kimi Raikkonen at Formula 1's once-glamour team and has something to prove after failing to win a race in his final season with Red Bull.
Ferrari enjoyed solid winter testing but Constructors' champion Mercedes set the benchmark and is tipped to carry its dominance into the race at Albert Park in central Melbourrne.
Vettel said: "I didn't try the 2014 car but I think it's a step forward. In fact, compared to where I was in 2014, it feels like a good car. I think people have been pushing on all fronts trying to improve and so far they've succeeded but, equally, we know we have work to do."
Could Ferrari beat Mercedes in Melbourne: "I think it would be a bit too aggressive (to say that)," he admitted. "I think we have to keep our feet on the ground. After winter testing it will be interesting to find out where we are compared with other people.
"We need to go step-by-step."
Dressed in Ferrari red and sporting a new cropped haircut, the 27-year-old arrived at Albert Park as just one of the chasing pack, a new feeling after three consecutive years as defending champion with Red Bull.
Fitting into the Maranello way of doing things had been "fun" but there was plenty more to learn. "Every team has its own way to operate and work," he said. "There's a lot of stuff I've had to get used to and probably still have to.
"I need to get to know the team better and the team to know me, which will still probably take time."
Vettel has replaced two-times F1 champion Fernando Alonso, now with McLaren, to join 2007 champion Raikkonen, nicknamed 'Ice Man'. How they will interact will be closely watched at Melbourne and Vettel joked when asked if he was friendly with the Finn.
"It depends on your understanding of friends," he said. "I don't expect any difficulties on a personal level. I'm sure we'll try to beat each other on the track."
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