Australian GP: Ferrari can challenge for title - Sebastian Vettel

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer in Melbourne
Ferrari and Mercedes
Vettel he was pleased with the race after saying Albert Park was one of Ferrari's "worst circuits" last year

Sebastian Vettel said he was confident his Ferrari team could fight with Mercedes for the title after a strong race at the Australian Grand Prix.

Vettel led for the first 35 laps only for his hopes be undone when Mercedes outflanked them on strategy.

He said: "We were a lot closer. Last year this was one of our worst circuits so there are plenty of positives.

"The team seems in good shape. We know we can up our game and we want to put pressure on these guys."

Vettel refused to blame Ferrari for their decision to stick with super-soft tyres at a re-start after the race was stopped following a massive crash involving McLaren's Fernando Alonso and Haas' Esteban Gutierrez.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel in the pit lane during the Australian Grand Prix
Ferrari's aggressive strategy ultimately did not pay off for Vettel

That meant Vettel had to make a second pit stop, while Mercedes chose to switch to a one-stop strategy using the medium tyres.

That allowed Nico Rosberg to vault from second to first and Lewis Hamilton to move up from seventh to finish second.

Vettel said: "You can argue that the red flag didn't help us but equally, you know, one time it plays into your favour, the other time it catches you out a bit.

"We went the aggressive route - maybe with hindsight we could have done something else but I'm not willing to blame anything or anyone.

"We are a team, we win as a team and I think today we won 15 points."

Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene denied that the team's decisions had cost them the race.

He added: "You have to be a bit more aggressive and it could be right or it could be wrong.

Raikkonen fire
Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen retired on lap 24 after flames burst out of the air box above his head

"But at the end we were pushing like hell and Sebastian was to have a chance to be able to overtake Hamilton, which was in our strategy.

"If you want to look at the glass not half-empty, we were there, this is the news. Of course you can't be happy after this but this is racing."

Australian GP results

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