[F1 2018 NEWS FEATURE] SCUDERIA FERRARI: TITLE FIGHT REMATCH

Scuderia Ferrari heads to Australia well-prepared for battle the revered Italian marque again topping the timesheets in pre-season testing.

It points to what should be another strong season start, Sebastian Vettel blasting out of the blocks last year racking-up six-consecutive podiums from Melbourne to Monte Carlo, including three race wins.

SOUNDBITE: (English) SEBASTIAN VETTEL,
4-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
"Obviously, this year looks very good for us. The car is very good, and I think the whole team is enjoying."

But the momentum dried up, as Mercedes hit its stride Lewis Hamilton winning seven of the next 11 races.

…while Vettel’s road rage incident in Azerbaijan, and reliability issues in Malaysia and Japan cost vital points, and ended his title campaign.

SOUNDBITE: (English) SEBASTIAN VETTEL,
4-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“Sometimes things are not in your hands, so you have to move forward. I think you struggle generally in life a lot more with things that you messed up rather than got messed up for you.”

The Prancing Horse, though, showed its intentions to again fight for glory this year with its glamorous launch the brand hoping to close the gap to the Silver Arrows with its new SF71H.

SOUNDBITE: (English) SEBASTIAN VETTEL,
4-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“Well, I think that we always have some positive expectation. I think we’ve said it many times, the amount of work that’s going into a new car is immense and the people are spending not just all their winter but also before, a great part of last year’s season.”

In Barcelona, Vettel led the way with Kimi Räikkönen less than a tenth behind. Both in the low 1-minute 17s on the hypersofts, as part of qualifying simulations on low fuel.

But, archrival Mercedes didn’t show its hand on the hypersofts meaning the only low fuel comparison was on the medium tyres, on which, the Silver Arrows are reckoned to be one tenth of a second up on Ferrari.

Regardless, all will be revealed during qualifying in Melbourne and there, Hamilton’s ready for his rematch with Vettel.

SOUNDBITE (English) LEWIS HAMILTON,
4-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
"Always expect the worst and hopefully it will be better. This year, in the fact that it is going to be a closer season - we have no idea what we are going to face.”

Räikkönen, the last to win the F1 world championship for Ferrari, in 2007, will also have to up his game with the new car to stay with the squad into 2019, young gun Charles Leclerc waiting in the wings.

SOUNDBITE (English) KIMI RÄIKKÖNEN,
2007 F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“I think it’s very well finished and a lot of good things, a lot of small things that usually makes a big difference in the car - the detail, the finished detail is good. So just for me, it looks good.”

The pressure is on Vettel, though - 2018 his fourth year with the Prancing Horse and his desire to emulate his childhood idol Michael Schumacher still a huge motivating factor.

Should he clinch the title this year Vettel will achieve his maiden Ferrari crown in one season less than it took the 7-time F1 World Champion, confirming him once and for all as part of the sport’s greats.

You can bet that the Scuderia will have worked around the clock until flying out to Australia, but everyone wants to know now more than ever - is the Prancing Horse going to lead or chase at Albert Park?