Sebastian Vettel admits it will be difficult for Ferrari to replicate the performance it showed in winning the Bahrain Grand Prix as its 2018 car remains challenging to set up.
Although he won the opening race in Australia, Vettel said he was not fully comfortable with his car and that was limiting his pace, with Lewis Hamilton having been comfortably quicker in qualifying. In Bahrain, Ferrari made a step forward and locked out the front row before Vettel held off Valtteri Bottas to win again, but the championship leader says question marks remain over whether the same performance can be found at the next race in China.
“I had more confidence in the car, a better feel,” Vettel said. “I don’t know how to explain the best way but if you have more confidence and the car’s responding to your input then ultimately you go faster because you know what to expect and you can anticipate and overall you are happier. I think that’s the main step that we did for this weekend, working for the set-up.
“Now Shanghai’s a completely different course, with different conditions. Usually it’s quite a bit cooler there. So, we’ll see when we get there – but yeah, it’s a tricky one to get everything right. The set-up again will be crucial for us.
“It seems a bit more difficult to get into the window but if we do like this weekend, and we find the sweet spot, then I’m pretty confident that we can do well there as well.”
And Vettel is wary of a number of threats at the upcoming race in Shanghai, saying all three of the front-running teams have the potential to be quickest on each circuit.
“It’s clear that we need to improve, we have to improve our car, our package. I guess everybody’s trying to do the same so the competition is very high. Needless to say that Valtteri and Lewis are pushing very hard. Obviously, Kimi [Raikkonen], alongside, is pushing incredibly hard.
“The two Red Bull guys with Max [Verstappen] and Daniel [Ricciardo] are pushing hard. Then there’s a bit more of a gap but I think those three teams and six drivers are very very close to each other.”