Sebastian Vettel believes the F1 midfield has “caught up” with the top two teams – but still expects Mercedes to be on top.
Pre-season testing gave an indication, but obviously nothing anywhere near definitive, about how the 2021 campaign could turn out.
The consensus appeared to be that Red Bull’s RB16B was at least on a par with the World Champions’ W12, with McLaren and AlphaTauri also potentially having improved.
The worry for Vettel was that his new team, Aston Martin, had a difficult time in testing as they missed valuable running due to issues on the second morning and final afternoon, leaving him what he considered to be 100 laps short of the ideal preparation.
Aston Martin may be on the back foot, but the four-time former World Champion believes the gap between Mercedes, Red Bull and the rest of the pack will not be as big this season.
#F1Testing? Completed it. ✅
Wake us up when it's race week… pic.twitter.com/2QNZVm6VYX
— Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team (@AstonMartinF1) March 15, 2021
“It’s difficult to filter all the impressions because the tyres were different, the cars have changed and I’m sure lots of the experiences I’ve made other people have made as well, so it’s all relative,” said Vettel, quoted by Crash.net.
“In terms of performance, as far as what I’ve seen, it looks to be very close. That would be good if it’s like that.
“So yeah, Red Bull look very strong, Mercedes, anything than being at the top would be a surprise for everyone.
“It looks like all the midfield have caught up. But it depends how the car feels, if the car feels fine, but it’s relative.
“The car can feel fantastic but if it’s too slow it’s painful, and if it feels horrible but it’s faster than everyone else’s then you accept it. We’ll find out more when we go racing.”
Vettel, 33, added that the opening Bahrain Grand Prix and even the next couple of races, at Imola and Portimao, will still be learning processes even though the main aim is results.
“I’m looking forward to going racing,” said the former Red Bull and Ferrari man. “Testing is not that exciting but when everything is new we would have liked to have more days, also with the little hiccups we had.
“But it is what it is, so it won’t be like testing, it will still be racing but we will have to learn a lot.
“And everyone will – I think it’s not just us and it’s not just the lack of laps here but everyone in the first couple of races will learn about their cars, the tyres and more.”