LONDON: Sebastian Vettel knows it will not be easy but the German has his eyes set on his first world title with Ferrari this season.
The 31-year-old moved to the Prancing Horse in 2015 having won four world titles with Red Bull. It was hoped, and widely expected, that Vettel would team up with the biggest name in motorsport to dominate the paddock and pitlane. But four years on and his trophy cabinet has not been added to as Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have swept all before them, with Hamilton’s Silver Arrows teammate Nico Rosberg the only man other than the Brit to claim the title since 2015.
Now, with Ferrari having dominated pre-season testing in Spain, Vettel has his hopes up that he can finally end his Ferrari duck and get back to the top of F1.
“It doesn’t feel like five years to be honest, but that’s what it is,” Vettel said.
“Overall the progression is there, the team is developing and closer together year by year so I hope that this year we get to have a lot of fun — and fun means to win a lot of races and then ultimately you are fighting for the championship.
“That’s obviously what we want but at this point it’s very far away.”
One thing that should help the German is the appointment of Mattia Binotto as new team boss. The Swiss-Italian engineer is a former technical head of the Italian outfit who first joined in 1994 at the start of Ferrari and Michael Schumacher’s dominance. It is hoped Binotto will raise morale and return the team to its racing roots.
What is not in doubt, however, is that both Vettel and Ferrari need something to change and most probably a huge dollop of luck to end Hamilton’s and Mercedes’ reign as the kings of F1. Vettel has had to trail in Hamilton’s wake for the past few seasons and he is in no doubt he wants the roles to be reversed.
“My goal, my dream is to become a Ferrari world champion. It also motivates me that Ferrari is the biggest brand in Formula One. For me it would therefore be the ultimate if I could win the world title with Ferrari.”
When asked if he had any plans to retire Vettel said: “I think it’s clear that I’m not in the spring of my career anymore. On the other hand, at 31 I still have plenty of time in this sport.
“I still have no thoughts of retiring. On the contrary, I’m doing everything to fulfil my dream of the title with Ferrari.”
One thing that will not help Vettel’s bid for a fifth world title is any complacency from Hamilton. The Briton is going for his sixth title but is only too aware that this season could be his toughest yet.
“Last year (Ferrari) arrived with a car working well but they have done even better this year,” the 34-year-old said.
”It’s OK. We don’t mind the challenge, it just means we have to work harder. We have a hill to climb but we know how to do it, this could be the toughest battle yet.”