Vettel coy about Ferrari chances of glory

It is ten years since Kimi Raikkonen claimed Ferrari’s last victory at the Australian Grand Prix, the Finn completing a memorable and popular treble with pole, victory and fastest lap at the 2007 event at Albert Park.

The previous decade had seen the scarlet Scuderia triumph five times with seven-time champion German Michael Schumacher delivering a record four victories (2000, 2001, 2002 and 2004) and Briton Eddie Irvine one (1999).

Their recent wait for glory may be set to end this weekend, however, if keen observers and some of their rivals are on the money with their pre-race forecasts ahead of this weekend’s season-opening 2017 Formula 1® Rolex Australian Grand Prix.

Four-time champion Frenchman Alain Prost hinted at something good this year for Ferrari after watching their SF-70H in pre-season testing in Spain and, on Thursday, three-time champion Briton Lewis Hamilton went one step further when he said Ferrari had the fastest car and are favourites to win on Sunday.

“I see Ferrari are being the quickest at the moment,” said Hamilton. “I think they will definitely be favourites, but, of course, we’ll find out more going into the weekend.

“It’s interesting to see -- Sebastian’s usually got a lot more hype and I can tell he’s trying to keep a lid on it, but their pace was obviously great in testing.”

Returning after a winless 2016, Ferrari impressed at the Circuit de Catalunya where both Vettel and Raikkonen clocked fast times during two weeks’ testing which ended with Hamilton failing to beat Raikkonen's best time on the final day.

Vettel, however, played down his prospects despite Hamilton’s praise on Thursday.

“So far we don't know anything,” he said. “So I think, for all of us, it will be exciting to see where we all are on Saturday and Sunday to get a first impression.

“For us, in the past, a lot of new things didn't go the way we expected, so for this year we've really focused on ourselves and tried to do our job in the factory and in testing before the season.

"Testing times, I don't think are that crucial. I think it matters much more what you will show from here onwards. We'll see, we're a bit in the dark not knowing what others have done, but for ourselves we can be reasonably happy – we’ve done decent mileage and we didn't have any major issues with the car.”

Vettel is yet to fight for, or win, a world title with since moving to Ferrari in 2015 and was coy about his prospects of landing a fifth title this year.

"It's March now!” he said. “If you are in the fight for the title, it’s a question for October or November, but we know that this car is a big step forward.”

Ferrari have won 224 races in Formula 1, but are without a victory since they triumphed at the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix. They have not won the constructors’ championship since 2008.

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