Sebastian Vettel says he hopes the new Ferrari SF16-H has made the jump to catch the dominant Mercedes but stresses the team must be patient over the first few races in 2016.
The four-time F1 world champion acted as the sole challenger to Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg last year claiming three race wins and the only driver to consistently keep pace with the silver arrows.
With Vettel determined to continue Ferrari's progress from last season and not only catch the German manufacturer but beat them, he is optimistic with the new car's potential after he and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen stolen the headlines during pre-season testing.
“The first impression was good and I think everything we built after that felt very positive,” Vettel said. “Overall I'm happy with the feeling in the car, difficult to say speaking about performance compared to the others, but ourselves we feel very happy with the step we've made.
“I hope I will be in front of the two [Mercedes]. That would be ideal in terms of what we wish for. Obviously we've tried to close the gap, it's been quite big across the last year. I think we've done a good job across the last season to get a little bit closer and now I think the new car gives us the chance to close the gap. How much? We need to be a bit more patient for a few weeks at least.”
Vettel and Ferrari head to Melbourne for the first genuine comparison to see how much they have gained on Mercedes with all teams running at maximum for the Australian Grand Prix.
12 months ago Vettel claimed third place behind race winner Hamilton and his team-mate Rosberg but crossed the finish line 34 seconds behind the British driver.