Sebastian Vettel believes 2018 could be a successful year for Ferrari if they continue to make the same progress like they did this season.
The 30-year-old may have been beaten to the title by Lewis Hamilton but has warned the Scuderia will pose a bigger threat to their Mercedes rivals next season.
The German led the championship at the halfway stage in July but suffered setbacks in Singapore, Malaysia and Japan – paving the way for Hamilton to seal a fourth world title with two races remaining.
But the leap in performance Ferrari have made this year compared to their chastening experiences in 2016 has given Vettel, team-mate Kimi Raikkonen and the rest of the Prancing Horse plenty of optimism for 2018.
“I think if we can do a similar step for next year and…don’t get me wrong, it’s a joke and Germans don’t like to joke so much, it should be a walk in the park,” Vettel said.
“What I want to say by that is the steps made this year have been incredible. The way the team came out with a competitive car at the beginning, the way we have improved both chassis, engine has been outstanding.
Vettel clinched five wins this campaign – as many as Ferrari claimed in the previous five seasons – highlighting their improvements made since the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last November.
With the final constructors’ championship not offering a true reflection on the tight battle between Mercedes and Ferrari, Vettel says the Italian marque can make further developments over the next 12 months.
“It has been close for most of the year but not close enough when it mattered. From that, we have made our conclusions, learned our lessons so that will help us next year,” he said.
“We are completely fired up. It has been bitter but I think it has been positive that we have had a couple of races [this year] to approach and look forward to next season.”
Vettel also suggested that a strong off-season for his team is key to their push of landing a first constructors’ championship since 2008.
He added: “That final step is always the hardest but the team is ready. We have some good things in the pipeline.”
Four-time champions Vettel and Hamilton have the stellar task of trying to catch Argentine great Juan Manuel Fangio on five world titles.
“Certainly we will never match him in how successful he was in such a short space of time,” Vettel said. “Back then racing was different.
The cars were not that reliable and he still managed to be successful. (He was) the best we’ve ever had in terms of putting it all together and skill.”
With the pressure off Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Vettel – a three time winner at Yas Marina Circuit – has the chance to eclipse Hamilton and win the season-ending race for the fourth time.
“It is probably not the most sophisticated track – it is pretty wide – but that also means that there is more than one racing line,” Vettel, who won at Yas Marina in 2008, 2009 and 2013, said.
“It is not so easy to overtake and that means that you’d better qualify at the very front. And that is the plan. And then let’s see what it will be on Sunday.”