The season opening Australian Grand Prix was definitely a positive one for the Scuderia Ferrari team, who proved that their pre-season form was genuine. Although Kimi Raikkonen was forced to retire, Sebastian Vettel was able to take a first podium for the team, finishing as best of the rest behind the dominant Mercedes duo up front.
Vettel secured third place after leapfrogging the Williams Martini Racing machine of Felipe Massa during the pit stop window, and believed Ferrari can hold their heads up high after a positive weekend at Albert Park.
“They did not play the Italian anthem on the podium, but we can be very pleased with this weekend,” insisted Vettel. “It’s a shame that a small mistake prevented Kimi from finishing the race but, in general, it was a very “clean” weekend.
“The most important thing is we have a good car, a real platform from which to carry on working. So thank you and congratulations also to the people who have worked hard in Maranello, as well as those here in Australia. Without them, this result would not have been possible.”
The German, who switched over to Ferrari after a long association with Red Bull, was happy to see his strategy work to jump ahead of Massa, and now hopes the team can work hard to close down the gap to the Mercedes team.
“The start was not the best, there was too much wheelspin and when I tried to hold the inside line, my tyres were still too cold,” said Vettel. “We had a great race strategy, which allowed us to jump the Williams, which had a good top speed, at our one pit stop.
“Now we must confirm our performance in the coming races and then, one step at a time, let’s hope we can begin to close on the Mercedes. The gap is still big, but of all the teams, I think ours is the one that has improved the most over the winter.”
Vettel revealed he had been dreaming of driving for the Scuderia for a long time, and finally was able to live the dream in Australia. He was happy to be able to share a bottle of champagne with his mechanics after the race, and felt the SF15-T has the potential to become a race winning car in 2015.
“For a long time, I’ve dreamed of driving for Ferrari and it’s happened at the right time,” revealed Vettel. “I drank the champagne on the podium and I kept some for the guys in the team, because they told me they like it a lot…
“We have a great car, not just for qualifying but also for the race. Let’s hope we can get on the podium again and maybe even get a few wins!”
Team-mate Raikkonen was on course for at least fifth place when he was forced to retire when his mechanics failed to attach his left rear tyre on during his second pit stop. He had already taken a hit from the Scuderia Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz Jr at the first corner, and revealed he had been struggling with reduced downforce as a result.
“Shortly after the start, someone hit me from behind,” revealed Raikkonen. “Then I felt another contact on my right side, but I don’t think it was Sebastian’s car. The impact activated the anti-stall system and did some damage to the floor of the car.
“We were very quick in the race, able to catch the Williams and to fight for the podium: but then there were problems at both pit stops. I don’t know exactly what happened, but I know I lost something in terms of downforce.
“However, my team-mate’s podium is a great result for the team. Already in qualifying, despite my mistake on the quick lap, we knew we had a good car. And in the race, the gap to the Mercedes seemed less than on Saturday. It’s simply that, today, everything happened to me.”
Raikkonen and Ferrari were investigated after the race for a possible unsafe release due to the wheel not being fitted properly during his pit stop, but the FIA revealed that neither would face any penalty.