Vettel: Ferrari team spirit is right after personnel changes

Vettel feels Ferrari “spirit is right”

Formula One's governing body, the FIA, is opposed to any advertising or sponsoring of cigarettes or tobacco, as are a number of countries staging races.

But Hamilton later told Sky Sports: "It might be closer than we think, it might be a bigger gap than we think".

Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton are expecting their toughest season yet and are braced to be pushed to the limit by Ferrari.

"It's only guessing where we are going to be but, as we last were on track, we are chasing Ferrari and we'll see where we are here".

"We've got the best team around us".

Ferrari did have the fastest vehicle for much of the season. We think they're going to be strong because Honda looks strong now as well and they've always had a good auto. "I'm confident the auto will be better here [than in testing], but if it's enough, we'll find out". It's a massively long season, and always with some regulation changes like this year is going to be a lot about how much you can improve the auto, because the cars in Abu Dhabi are going to be so much quicker than this weekend.

Despite its slump in the second half of a year ago that cost Ferrari clinching both championships, Vettel believes it has every reason to be confident it will address its 2018 weaknesses and begin this season in a much stronger position. "We have experience, it's no coincidence that we are world champions so we have to be diligent and stay balanced", said Hamilton, who has won twice in Melbourne. Over the past two years, the way they've been able to improve the auto during the year has been pretty rapid, so for sure they're going to be a threat as well. It's just feeling how the auto handles and how the balance is, we know there is definitely more to come.

Ferrari and Vettel looked in contention to pick up their first Championship last season, but a string of errors in the second half saw them tail off and ultimately hand it to Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton.

That is the belief of Nico Rosberg, the 2016 world champion.

And if Mercedes does emerge at the head of the pack through the course of the year then could Bottas be top dog?

Max Verstappen, who at 17 was the youngest driver ever to start a race, is now a 21-year-old "veteran" in his fifth season and the main man at Red Bull, who also have 23-year-old Frenchman Pierre Gasly racing for them. Perhaps a little puppy love may well go a long way to proving his critics wrong...

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