Ferrari "three, four tenths" behind Mercedes - Vettel

Ferrari Formula 1 driver Sebastian Vettel believes Mercedes has a gap of “three, four tenths” over its nearest rivals following the opening race of the 2018 season in Melbourne.

Ferrari "three, four tenths" behind Mercedes - Vettel
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
Race winner Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, celebrates on arrival in Parc Ferme
Race winner Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari celebrates on the podium
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF71H, takes the chequered flag for victory
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF71H
Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF71H
Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari SF71H

Vettel was victorious in the Australian Grand Prix, benefitting from a well-timed virtual safety car to jump ahead of Lewis Hamilton – but the German readily admitted after the race that it was a "lucky" triumph and that Ferrari was not yet "a true match" for Mercedes.

Ahead of the second race of the year in Bahrain, Vettel offered his estimate of how much pace Mercedes had in hand over Ferrari as well as its other main challenger Red Bull.

"If you look at the pace - testing, first race - it's pretty clear that Mercedes is fastest, probably with a three, fourth tenths' gap," Vettel said.

"That's also what we saw in the race. Obviously Lewis was controlling his pace in the beginning and then pushed when he had to.

"He had, obviously, time in hand. I think that's the fair answer. And then I think it's very close behind them."

Hamilton had taken pole in Australia by a margin of 0.664s over Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, but Vettel is convinced this was not a true reflection of the gap – as both he and Red Bull's Max Verstappen should've been closer to the Brit.

Asked whether his gap estimate was for qualifying or race conditions, he answered: "Overall. I think in qualifying [in Melbourne] the gap there looked a bit bigger then it probably should have been.

"I think if you look at the session again, it's pretty clear that Q2 in particular Mercedes and Lewis didn't get the lap together, and then in Q3 he did.

"And I think Max had a small mistake in Q3 and I had a small mistake so we should have been a bit closer.

"Yeah, I think that's the gap we saw in qualy and in the race, so both."

For his part, Raikkonen said he had "zero interest" in trying to guess how much Ferrari is trailing Mercedes by – and insisted Hamilton's pole margin in Australia was not too important.

"You can keep guessing [the gap] as long as you want, we will see over the weekend where we are," the Finn said.

"I have zero interest to start guessing where we are, or what the difference is in qualifying. There are so many things that will change that, and we will do our best and see where we end up in qualifying and the race.

"The most important part is the Sunday after the race, wherever we finished.

"I am happy to be two seconds off if we win every Sunday. I don't care. It is pretty irrelevant on Saturdays in a way."

Additional reporting by Roberto Chinchero, Jonathan Noble

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