Sebastian Vettel has confirmed that Ferrari is well on its way to completing its turnaround season by putting the car into P4 for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix.
Felipe Massa pipped the latest edition to the Ferrari squad by just five-hundredths of a second, which Vettel marked down to a simple driver error on his part.
Being in contention for the top three is a major achievement for what was previously a listless Ferrari that seemed capable of reeling off only conservative, underwhelming cars.
However, the arrival of Sebastian Vettel, the stewardship of technical chief James Allison, and the guidance of new team principal Maurizio Arrivabene appears to have re-instilled belief in the historic team.
“It’s a big improvement from last year,” said Vettel. “The atmosphere in the team is very good. The spirit is right. It’s going in the right direction.”
“Obviously I’d like to be in a higher position today, I got very close, but Felipe did a very good lap, so fair to him. We’ll see what we can do tomorrow, but for sure we’re having a really good weekend so far.”
As is the case with every team on the grid — though particularly with some more than others — the gap to Mercedes this season appears to have grown, with this weekend’s pole time more than almost 1.5 seconds fastest than that set by the next non-Mercedes driver.
However, Vettel said Ferrari should, and is, pleased by the performance of the F15T.
“If you look at the gap to P1 there’s still a lot of work to do,” said Vettel. “Coming out of winter testing everyone predicted Mercedes to be in front — that was probably quite easy — then it was between ourselves and Williams, and also Red Bull.
“Speaking for ourselves, we’re very happy where we are right now. We confirmed it’s very close with Williams! If you look at the time gaps, it was really close.
“This is a good start. In general we felt like we were always able to get the maximum out of the car.
“I think I could’ve done a better job — I could’ve put the car in P3, but I didn’t do it, and that was down to me today.”
The horizon is much brighter for Ferrari in 2015, but the team is continuing to keep its expectation in check for tomorrow’s race.
“We’ll see what we can do tomorrow in the race, but the most important thing is we keep on having a good weekend without any problems, and to have a smooth race tomorrow — and ideally get that one position back.”