SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Ferrari should be able to make “a good step forward” next season after establishing themselves as the closest challengers to Formula One champions Mercedes, Sebastian Vettel said on Thursday.
The four-times world champion, who joined Ferrari from Red Bull at the end of last year, has won three races in 2015, the only non-Mercedes driver to stand on top of the podium in 17 rounds so far.
“It’s always difficult to predict what’s going to happen but surely it is our target,” the German told reporters at the Brazilian Grand Prix when asked whether Ferrari could take the fight to Mercedes in 2016.
“I can see what’s happening in the background, the work that has gone into this year, the work that is going into next year back in the factory, back in Maranello with all the people,” he added.
“So it looks promising and I think we should be able to make a good step forward.”
Ferrari have not won a drivers’ world championship since 2007, when Kimi Raikkonen succeeded against the odds, and failed to win a race last year.
They have closed the gap in engine performance this season, however, despite Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton retaining both their titles.
Niki Lauda, Mercedes’ non-executive chairman and a triple world champion, said recently that the Italian team could match them for power but not in terms of chassis or aerodynamics.
“Well, as a fact we are not yet a match otherwise this season would have been very different,” said Vettel, who crashed out of the previous race in Mexico that was dominated by Mercedes, when asked about the Austrian’s words.
“But I’m very happy, as I said, with the season so far, with the progress we’ve made and also with the things that I think we have in the pipeline for the future.
“Niki is usually not the best one to trust, let’s put it this way, he’s changing his opinion very quickly and sometimes what he says makes sense and other times it doesn’t make any sense,” continued the German.
“The more he’s talking about us the better it is for us because he can feel that maybe we’re coming so hopefully that’s good news.”
Vettel said his target for the remaining two races of the season was to beat compatriot Nico Rosberg to second place overall and split the Mercedes drivers.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Tony Jimenez)