Sebastian Vettel believes Ferrari will be “even stronger” this season as they bid to wrestle the Formula One championship away from Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes team.
Vettel, who was speaking at the launch of the new Ferrari SF16-H alongside team-mate Kimi Raikkonen and team principal Maurizio Arrivabene, won three races in his debut season with the famous Italian team last year.
But Vettel hopes this year’s Ferrari – which sports a retro feel with large flashes of white on its livery – will be able to take the challenge to Hamilton, whom he finished 103 points adrift of last season, and Mercedes.
“We had a fantastic year last year – obviously my first season with the team – and we all want more,” said Vettel, the four-time world champion.
“Last year, we finished second overall in the constructors’ championship so there is only one more step which is a difficult one to take but hopefully this car will help us achieve it. We have improved in many areas.
“When I joined the team there were a lot of people changing their positions and it was a difficult time to have expectations. But now we have had a much better winter to prepare and therefore we will be a strong team – as we have seen already last year – but even stronger this year.”
Hamilton’s Mercedes team have dominated the sport for the past two seasons, winning 32 of the last 38 races. And Ferrari, who took great strides forward last term, are expected to be their closest challengers once more in 2016.
James Allison, the British designer who joined Ferrari from Lotus midway through the 2013 season, has been instrumental to the team’s revival.
“We know Mercedes were very strong last year and very strong the year before, but we also know that we have extremely talented people at Maranello and we have put nearly 1,000 man hours of work into this car,” he said. “We have done our absolute best to try to make this car a step up, a bold step forward, to give it the competitiveness it needs to be a proper winning car.
“I hope we have done enough but we will only know for sure once we have started racing it. The love, care, effort and skill that has gone into this car is beyond question.
Arrivabene added: “We would like to fight until the end for the championship. I know that is not going to be easy, because our competitors are not sleeping, but we are committed to do our best.”
Ferrari will get the chance to unleash their new car at the first pre-season test which gets under way in Barcelona on Monday. The campaign begins in Melbourne on March 20.
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