Sebastian Vettel says Ferrari can take a lot of confidence from its return to the podium in the final round of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix given the 'criticism' it has received in 2016.

Following a return to the top of the podium last season, Ferrari failed to win a race in 2016 as it struggled to match champions Mercedes consistently before slipping behind an improving Red Bull Racing team.

In what has been a particularly difficult - and at times controversial - second-half of the season for Vettel, third place for the German in Abu Dhabi marked only Ferrari's second podium since the Austrian Grand Prix in July.

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With Ferrari criticised more than once for erroneous strategic decisions that have cost it wins or podiums, most notably in Australia and Canada, Vettel admits a strong final race was important for the team's confidence.

"I think it was [a special podium]," he said. "It has been a tough year in many regards and I think it is good to be up there, it is right message for the whole team. The spirit is high anyway but it helps.

"We wanted to finish the season on a high, finish with dignity after such an eventful year for us, so I am very happy about that."

"The whole team deserves the podium," he continued. "I think we have worked so hard. We have had so much criticism this year - sometimes right, sometimes not justified - but that's how it goes, it's a tough game, we're fighting really tough opponents. It's been a tough year but it's nice to finish on a high and I think we take that momentum into next year."

By finishing third in Abu Dhabi Vettel assured himself of fourth in the F1 standings, but it is only the second season since 2008 that he has failed to win a race.

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