SUZUKA, Japan- Sebastian Vettel has played down Ferrari’s reliability issues before this week’s crunch Japanese Grand Prix, insisting it was no time for panic.
The four-time world champion was bullish Thursday despite slipping 34 points behind Mercedes title rival Lewis Hamilton after finishing fourth from stone last in Malaysia last weekend.
Vettel’s hopes of catching Hamilton were boosted by the news his Ferrari will not need a new gearbox following a post-race shunt with Lance Stroll’s Williams, meaning the German is set to avoid a five-place grid penalty.
But gremlins that plagued the team’s weekend in Malaysia prompted a tetchy response from Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne, who admitted he was “angry” at the lack of reliability shown by the cars.
“We had a problem in Malaysia, stopping myself and Kimi,” said Vettel, whose Finnish team mate Raikkonen was wheeled away from his front-row grid slot with engine failure.
“It’s normal that you try to understand things. Knowing what’s going on internally, there’s no panic or any big plans as a reaction. Maybe it’s more a coincidence between the events.”
He added: “Our situation is clear: we are taking it race by race but our goal is to win everyone. We can’t be happy unless we perform to our limit.”
Vettel is due a little good fortune after crashing from pole in Singapore three weeks ago.
“Obviously the last few races weren’t great hits for us,” said the former Red Bull driver.
“But sticking your head in the sand is no alternative either. I believe we have a strong car and there are plenty of races left.
“I think we have a good understanding but it’s only been a couple of days,” he added. “I’m pretty convinced we shouldn’t have any issues here.”
Vettel also refused to throw in the towel, despite a significant gap between him and Hamilton with just five races left this season.
“We are behind so it depends on what Mercedes is doing,” he said.
“I think it’s pretty clear we need to do our best. We are behind on points if we look at the championship, so we need to score much more than them.”
Red Bull, meanwhile, have begun to flex their muscles with Max Verstappen capping his 20th birthday weekend by posting his second Formula One victory in Malaysia with Australian team mate Daniel Ricciardo taking third.
“How we achieve it doesn’t matter, as long as we achieve it,” said a defiant Vettel, who has won four races this year to Hamilton’s seven.
“We have the package,” he added. “Now we just have to bring it to the track.”