Sebastian Vettel insists that the Ferrari team hasn't forgotten how to win F1 races despite not finding the top step of a grand prix podium in the 13 races since Singapore last season.
The German provided the biggest threat to Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton in last weekend's Canadian Grand Prix as the SF16-H benefited from a new turbocharger, amongst the usual handful of race-by-race upgrades, but was undone by poor pit-stop strategy that allowed the reigning world champion to claim a fifth win in Montreal.
Arriving in Baku for the European Grand Prix less than a week after racing on the American continent, Vettel will hope that Ferrari's improved performance will carry over to the latest addition to the F1 schedule, and insists that the Scuderia has not lost the winning mentality, despite its barren run.
“I don't know about other teams, but I disagree [that Ferrari has lost the winning touch],” he claimed, “I joined the team last year and I think it's a very strong team. In the end, the mentality is responsible for whether you win or not.
“Ultimately, on every day, you can choose 100 different reasons [for losing], first of all if you are competitive enough, but in terms of mentality, I see a team full of winning people, I think there's definitely the desire to win from everyone involved [and] that makes me very confident that we will start winning sooner or later.
“The ambition for anyone involved is always to win - some achieve it and some don't - but what makes you a winner is not just if you have a car which is quick enough, it's the people that operate the car. In this regard, I think we're a very, very strong team. We can be stronger, there's stuff that we can learn and will always have to learn, but I haven't seen a winning team or winning person that has learnt all the lessons there are to learn in life.
“In this regard, if you look at our sport and the way it's changing, evolving, there's definitely things you can learn as a team; there's definitely things you can learn as a driver in terms of how to drive the car. So it never stops, but I think it's the mentality that is mostly responsible for whether you are successful or not.”
Vettel, who reckons to have completed around 70 laps of the Baku street circuit on Ferrari's simulator in preparation for this weekend's grand prix, acknowledged that a trouble-free build-up in Canada played its part in the final result, but knows that Ferrari needs to keep pace in the development race if it is to overcome both Mercedes and a resurgent Red Bull this year.
“For sure, upgrades help and I think everything we brought to Canada did make a difference, so that was good,” he noted, “There was a lot of talk about the turbo update, but I think it was just a clean weekend in particular because the weekends before were a bit messy, in particular in qualifying, [where] we weren't able to show the pace - or release the pace - of the car.
“In this regard, Saturday was strong. I think we qualified where the car belongs and, on Sunday, we had a trouble-free race. We were able to put Lewis under pressure simply because the speed was there. You seem to have an easier Sunday where you can do your thing if Saturday goes well, and this has to be the target [this weekend].”