Sebastian Vettel has suggested the long-run pace demonstrated by Mercedes and Red Bull during winter testing does not give an accurate picture of the pecking order ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.
On the basis of its race simulations, Mercedes appears to have the edge on Ferrari and Red Bull in terms of pace. Valtteri Bottas was on average 0.55s a lap faster than Vettel's Ferrari during their long runs during the final week of testing, although the Mercedes driver stayed on the medium tyre throughout.
Vettel completed a much more realistic race strategy of super-soft/medium/medium, which ultimately may have skewed the accuracy of the final comparison. Although there have been some suggestions Ferrari has also slipped behind Red Bull as the next quickest team, Vettel has pointed out that the testing tyre choices are important to consider.
"Our competitors -- Mercedes and Red Bull -- used one type of tyre for their race distance simulations, which is something you can't do in a grand prix," Vettel said when asked what he thought about the speculation over rival teams' race pace. "This has an impact on the strategies and ultimately on the result."
Vettel is convinced Ferrari is in a good place heading to the opening race and believes it has a lot more performance to unlock from its 2018 contender.
"We're starting from a good base with our SF71H car. Now we'll have to work on development to further explore and improve its potential. I have a lot of confidence in our team, I know how skilled and committed the guys in Maranello are.
"We did not experience any major issues with the car, and I had fun driving it. I can't wait to be in Australia, because once we get on track there, we will all be driving and racing under the same conditions. And, as I said before, I have confidence in our car."