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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Formula One 2018: Sebastian Vettel determined to stop Mercedes in their tracks

German four-time world champion targets ending Ferrari's decade-long title drought

Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari's assault faded in the second half of last season following a catalogue of driver and team failures. Mark Thompson / Getty Images
Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari's assault faded in the second half of last season following a catalogue of driver and team failures. Mark Thompson / Getty Images

Sebastian Vettel has vowed to end Ferrari's decade-long championship drought by beating Lewis Hamilton to the Formula One world title.

Ferrari made a giant step last winter to challenge Hamilton's all-conquering Mercedes team, and at one stage Vettel was as many as 25 points clear of his rival in the championship race.

But Vettel and Ferrari's assault faded in the second half of last season following a catalogue of driver and team failures, and the German was victorious at just one race after the summer break.

Hamilton raced to championship glory with two grands prix to spare. But Vettel, 30, hopes Ferrari can narrow the gap again and score Ferrari's first title triumph since Kimi Raikkonen won the world championship back in 2007.

Vettel, who claimed the last of his four successive titles in 2013, said: "It is inevitable that everyone gets older, but it is always too long if the wait for a title is more than one year.

"I want to make sure that I can bring that championship back to Maranello. That is our big ambition and that is our target.

"Mercedes are the favourites, but if we can be close, very close, and closer than last year, that will be great.

"It is a long year. It is only March now, but we will keep going until the end of November when the season ends."

Hamilton is due to end the opening week of testing with significantly fewer miles under his belt than Vettel.

The 33-year-old British driver completed only 25 laps in the drizzle of Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya on Monday afternoon before team-mate Valtteri Bottas was given an entire day of running the following day. Wednesday's session was then a washout following a deluge of snow and persistent rain.

The final day of testing began on a damp track with Mercedes again opting to use Bottas. Hamilton emerged in the closing hours once the track had dried out.

There were further encouraging signs for McLaren as Stoffel Vandoorne clocked more than 100 laps and sat on top of the time sheets.

Vettel added: "It has been a difficult week with cool conditions but it affects everyone.

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"It is tricky when everybody is so excited because you have a new car but you are unable to tick all the boxes and find the answers to all the questions you have.

"Anything is possible this year, but I don't know the answers yet. So far, things have looked OK but there has been limited running for everyone so it is difficult to judge and compare to the others."

There will be four further days of testing here next week before Hamilton opens the defence of his title at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on March 25.