Sebastian Vettel believes Ferrari is not yet a “true match” for Mercedes despite winning the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, adding his team are not as quick as 12 months ago. 

Vettel claimed a surprise victory in Melbourne for the second consecutive year, after leapfrogging polesitter Lewis Hamilton under a Virtual Safety Car period in Sunday’s race. 

Despite starting third, the German benefitted from running a longer first stint compared to Hamilton and teammate Kimi Raikkonen, allowing him to capitalise when the VSC was deployed on Lap 24 to remove Romain Grosjean’s stranded Haas. 

However, Vettel feels Ferrari has taken a backwards step compared to where it was performance-wise at the same stage last season, and admitted the Italian squad is not yet in a position to beat Mercedes on merit. 

“Today we didn't have the true race pace to match [Mercedes],” Vettel said. “If we're fair, Lewis was fastest whereas last year I think we had a bit more pace at this point. Last year we were putting them under pressure.

“At the moment we’re a bit worse [compared to last year]. If you look at the gaps from the whole weekend we are not yet a true match so at this point we are not yet where we want to be. 

“When I'm racing the car doesn't respond the way you would like. I want the car to be spot on when I hit the brakes and turn in. I'm still struggling a little bit and I'm not yet happy.”

But Vettel, who missed out to Hamilton on the 2017 title, insists Ferrari was due some luck having endured its own misfortune at various points last year. 

“Needless to say we got a bit lucky with the timing of the Safety Car but equally I think we had some races, in particular last year, where it went the other way. I’ve been on the other side as well. Good points and for everyone back at home I think there are motivations to press on.”

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