Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team’s impressive qualifying pace is a “game-changer” for the rest of the 2017 season according to championship rivals Scuderia Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel.
Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have claimed pole-position in eight of the ten races so far this season, most recently at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix where Hamilton crushed the field to take pole by over half-a-second.
Hamilton converted his sixty-seventh pole-position into a fifth British Grand Prix victory to cut the deficit to Vettel to just a single championship point. Vettel himself believes it’s qualifying where Ferrari needs to lay its focus if it’s to consistently take the fight to Mercedes.
“It’s probably true that the last couple of races Mercedes were a bit stronger, but I think the real game-changer is qualifying,” Vettel told motorsport.com.
“They are able to turn up the engine, they are gaining between three and six tenths to us on the straights. In Baku it was seven [tenths], in Austria it was half a second.
“That’s something we can’t do. We are working on it, but it doesn’t happen overnight. There is no reason to panic or worry, but we need to be aware. They are very quick, they have a couple of advantages that we need to work on, and then it could be a different picture. It’s a no-brainer, if you have the cars in front for the first lap, the first corner, the race looks different.”
For Vettel, it’s Ferrari’s race pace that he’s happy with, especially when compared to where the team were last season.
“Last year we were far, far away, this year we’ve been matched [with Mercedes] for the majority of the year,” he said.
“We must not forget where we have come from – we have done the biggest step out of all the teams. Red Bull has been vocal in the winter how good they would be this year, so far they haven’t been there.
“Everybody is pushing hard, and we are trying to work hard on that advantage that [Mercedes] currently have in qualifying. We know where to tackle but it’s not that easy. The car is great, it has been fantastic again in the race here [Silverstone], arguably not quick enough, but still quicker than what we got in terms of result.”