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Vettel: Mercedes 2016 favourites

Sky Sports logo Sky Sports 27-11-2015 skysports.com

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Sebastian Vettel says Mercedes are still favourites for 2016 but Ferrari have targeted starting the new season ahead of the reigning world champions. 

Just fourth in 2014, the Scuderia have emerged as the Silver Arrows' closest challengers this term with the impressive Vettel claiming three wins - the only occasions this season when neither Lewis Hamilton nor Nico Rosberg have won.

An even closer battle is expected next year, but Vettel has warned Ferrari still have plenty of work to do before they are a true match for Mercedes.

"We are not the favourites [for 2016] - and our target is to change that. We have made big steps, we have got closer, but we are not yet close enough," said Vettel.

The Scuderia's revival has been all the more remarkable for the mass upheaval the team experienced during the latter stages of 2014 when their chairman, team principal, and head of engineering all departed during a period of unprecedented blood-letting at Maranello. Vettel was himself hired as a replacement for the outgoing Fernando Alonso but has appeared utterly at ease in his new working environment since debuting in red.

"We can be extremely happy looking at the steps we've made," added Vettel. "In terms of morale, everyone is fired up and keen to get ahead. We had a big change over the winter, with lots of people shifting their positions and things which are not easy for a big team to digest, but we've managed to improve the car, improve the engine and improve the power unit. We can be very happy.

"If l were to put a number on our season: 10 is when you win the championship, l think when you consider all the changes we had then we are between a seven and a nine."

But how to score a perfect 10 in 2016? Vettel is rumoured to have requested a different kind of front suspension for next year's Ferrari but says all areas of their car need to be improved if Mercedes are to be caught.

He said: "The reason Mercedes have had a great season isn't because they have had a great car or a great power unit but a combination of things. We expect them to keep growing so we need to make bigger steps.

"There are lot of things we are looking into. I don't know what is happening behind other people's door but what is happening behind the doors of Maranello looks very promising - but we have to put the car on track and then see."

Vettel's own revival this year has been delivered after he also endured a torrid 2014, suffering a head-to-head defeat to then-Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo after four successive world championships. But the German now believes the adversity has made him a stronger and better driver.

"It wasn't a disaster," Vettel reflected. "After four years at the top, I don't think l was getting lazy, it was just a year which started off complicated with very little running and a new generation of cars, l needed time and it was difficult to find a rhythm. It was a difficult season.

"Changing teams has been a huge challenge but l am enjoying it a lot. I liked the car straight away. And l found a rhythm straight away. We had a perfect winter and it was a different start altogether. But it was good in 2014 to be reminded of a lot of things and l don't regret the year l had."

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