The games between Mercedes and Ferrari are already beginning. Well, they actually begun prior to qualifying for the season opener in Australia a few weeks ago. Ferrari and others accused Mercedes of having a “party mode” qualifying package. In practice, Ferrari’s closed the gap a bit in Melbourne in the wet and even in the first couple of rounds of knockout qualifying. But, when the pole was ready to be won, Mercedes powered up the speed charts to a dominating pole position run by Lewis Hamilton.
In the race though, Ferrari put two cars on the podium with Sebastian Vettel winning the annual season opener for a second straight year. But, despite a win in the opening race of 2018, Vettel and his Ferrari bunch are using caution saying that Mercedes is still quite a bit quicker than them as far as pace goes.
“We have enough clever people to know that we’re not quick enough yet,” said Vettel in his weekly press conference on Thursday. “It’s also a no-brainer that we’re not quick enough yet and Mercedes is quicker. But we go racing. If you look at the pace, in testing and at the first race, it’s pretty clear that Mercedes is fastest, probably with three or four-tenths’ gap.
“Lewis was controlling his pace in the beginning [in Australia] and pushed when he had to. He had time in hand. I think that’s the fair answer.”
When asked whether he felt the three- to four-tenths gap was in qualifying or the race, Vettel said: “I think that’s the gap we saw in qualy and then the race, so both. In qualifying, the gap then looked a bit bigger than it probably should have been.”
Hamilton though countered with saying that he feels not only is there not a gap by that nature, but he thinks Ferrari has caught up to them.
“The team haven’t mentioned a figure to me,” he said on Thursday. “They said in qualifying, they think power-wise we are equal to them, so they [Ferrari] have made a really big improvement.
“They feel in the race, we might have a slight edge on them. But I think it’s hard to say from one race. They had a different run profile to us in the race, they were doing something different fueling wise compared to us. It’s difficult. You’ll get a much better idea of it in the coming races.”
So, who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s a battle that will starting showing us soon. Vettel and Ferrari are the defending race winners in the desert.