Sebastian Vettel has welcomed Niki Lauda's latest comments on the Mercedes-Ferrari battle as a sign that the Three Pointed Star may be getting concerned by its rival's potential.
While Mercedes has wrapped up both F1 world championship titles for the second year in succession, Vettel and Ferrari have been the most consistent threat to tits hegemony, and the German believes that there will be more to come as they move into the second year of their partnership next season. While he played down Lauda's latest suggestion that the SF15-T may now be a match for the W06 Hybrid in terms of engine and power, if not necessarily chassis and aerodynamics, Vettel admitted that claims perhaps underlined Mercedes' concerns for the future.
“Niki is not usually the best one to trust,” the four-time world champion smiled, “Let's put it this way, he's changing his opinion very quickly. Sometimes what he says makes sense and, other times, it doesn't make any. But the more he's talking about us the better it is for us because he can feel that maybe we're coming and hopefully that's good news.”
Vettel confirmed that, in his opinion, the two cars are yet to reach parity, but would not rule out a closer challenge in the future as he remains impressed with the development potential being shown by the Scuderia.
“It is a fact that we are not yet a match or this season would have been very different,” he insisted, “But I'm very happy with the season so far, the progress we have made and also with the things we have in the pipeline for the future.
“It is always difficult to predict what is going to happen, but it is our target [to be closer in 2016]. I can see what is happening in the background, the work that has gone into this year and is going into next year. It looks promising and we should be able to make a good step forward. The most important day is when you put the new car on the track and see what it does, but that is still a bit far away. For now, we still have two races left and we want to do well and ideally get the best possible results here and in Abu Dhabi.”
The 'best possible result' would be overhauling Nico Rosberg and reclaiming the second championship position that Vettel held until the Mexican Grand Prix two weekends ago. A rare self-inflicted DNF for the German, allied to victory for his Mercedes-mounted countryman, resulted in a 21-point swing in Rosberg's favour, but Vettel is not about to give up hope just yet.
“There are two races to go and the last one didn't help but, for sure, as long as it is possible to finish second, you want to finish second rather than third, so clearly our target is to at least try and split the Mercedes and split them the right way,” he acknowledged, “The best way to do that is to just do our job and achieve the maximum. Then we'll see what happens on Sunday.”