Sebastian Vettel feels Ferrari was “still too far away” from Mercedes through the 2018 Formula 1 season, citing a “significant drop in performance” as proving costly in the closing stages of the season.

Vettel led the drivers’ championship at the halfway point in the season ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, only to suffer a downturn in form through the second half of the season after a number of costly errors.

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Vettel’s title bid was also hurt by Ferrari’s pursuit of a number of car updates that failed to work, meaning he won just one race in the second half of the season.

Looking at the season as a whole, Vettel said Ferrari needed to ensure it drew closer to Mercedes in terms of performance, having experienced a big swing in fortunes towards the end of the year. 

“I think if you look at the whole championship, we were still too far away,” Vettel said.

“It was looking quite good and close up until halfway through, maybe including the races at Spa and Monza. But after that, I think we had quite a significant drop in performance which made it quite difficult for us.

“Equally Lewis, together with Mercedes, had a very strong sequence of races, scoring a lot of points, a lot of wins. Then the gap opened up quite quickly.”

Vettel said he did not pay close attention to the growing points gap to Hamilton, only feeling his title hopes were over with three races to go in Mexico, where the championship was settled.

“You always tend to believe and fight until the end, so it was really Mexico when I realised it would be difficult, and then impossible once we crossed the line,” Vettel said.

“Until then, I didn’t really follow the points that closely. I knew it wasn’t going in my favour, but how many championships I think is anyway a sort of luxury to be able to choose from.

“I think the motivation is obviously to win, and the motivation is obviously to win with Ferrari. That’s my target, obviously not there yet, not quite, so we’ll try again."

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