Sebastian Vettel reckons Ferrari should be more closely matched with Formula 1 rivals Red Bull at this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix compared to previous years.

Red Bull heads to Mexico City tipped as the team to beat around the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit, a venue which has played to the team’s strengths in recent years due to its high-altitude resulting in teams running maximum downforce levels on their cars. Max Verstappen has won the last two races in Mexico and Red Bull claimed a front-row lockout last season.

Vettel, who took pole position at the venue in 2017 and finished runner-up to Verstappen in the race last year, believes Ferrari is better positioned to challenge for victory this time around.

“Obviously racing at altitude has an impact on how the car feels,” Vettel explained.

“We are racing with maximum downforce level in terms of car setup, but, since we are racing so high above sea level, the air is very thin and the cars actually produce very little downforce.

“On the long straight, I think we see the fastest top speeds of the season, which makes it difficult to manage the corners, because we’ve got so little downforce physically on the car.

“The car is moving around a lot and it’s difficult to get the tyres to work, in fact it’s hard to get the whole car to work and to get the right feel from it. It’s a relatively short lap but not an easy one.

“Over the past couple of years, we have been on an upward trend in Mexico, although Red Bull has been the team to beat. But I think the gaps between us are getting smaller, so let’s see how we get on this year.”

Ferrari’s impressive resurgence since the summer break has been slightly stalled by Mercedes after the German manufacturer picked up wins in Russia and Japan, the latter of which sealed its sixth successive constructors’ world championship triumph.

Despite Mercedes’ recent success, Ferrari remains the team in form, particularly in qualifying, having claimed the last five pole positions on offer.

“After two races in which we could have done better, we arrive in Mexico determined to win,” Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said.

“We will be aiming for our sixth consecutive pole, before looking to convert that into a victory. The Mexican track has plenty of elements that can catch you out, some of these linked to the fact we are racing at over 2000 metres above sea level.

“That makes fine-tuning the settings on both the chassis and Power Unit side particularly complex, as the requirements are very specific to this track.

“The circuit features a variety of corner types as well as long straights on which, year after year, the record relating to top speeds has been beaten.

“The necessary compromise between having good top speed and sufficient downforce in the corners dictates the aero settings with which we will take to the track.”