Ferrari technical director James Allison on Friday poured cold water on any Formula One title talk following Sebastian Vettel’s stunning Malaysia victory two weeks ago.
The German’s win ended a run of eight victories by the all-conquering Mercedes stretching back to last season and also halted an astonishing 34-race drought for the fabled Ferrari team.
“The team has had a difficult period over the past couple of years and to score a win was tremendously enjoyable and helps pump everyone up,” Allison told reporters before this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix.
“It makes it easier to work the hours that they need to work before we can close up and be properly competitive in every race.”
Nevertheless, to expect Ferrari — who failed to win a race last season for the first time since 1993 — to turn one victory into a genuine title push was unrealistic, according to Allison.
“Of course to finish at the front in a race is a great thing but it doesn’t tell you much about what’s going to happen in the future,” he said. “We’re up against a car, in Mercedes, and others too, that are strong competition.
“But Mercedes in particular, they have a bit more horsepower than us and a bit more downforce than us, and until we’ve closed those two gaps it’s not realistic to talk about title challenges.”
Mercedes won 16 of 19 races last season as Lewis Hamilton roared to his second Formula One crown. The Silver Arrows began 2015 by finishing one-two in Melbourne, before Vettel upset the odds with his masterclass in Sepang two weeks ago.
Vettel, whose team mate Kimi Raikkonen showed decent pace in finishing fourth in Malaysia after suffering an early puncture, was quietly confident Ferrari would be ready to pounce on any slip-ups from the Mercedes pair.
“The target is that we are right behind Mercedes,” said the four-times world champion. “You have to accept that they are very strong, as the season gets on we (will) try to get closer and closer.”
Allison, however, sounded a more cautious note.
“Our objectives were set out at the beginning of the year,” said the Briton. “We thought it was realistic to score a couple of wins and of course we’ll take whatever comes our way and do our best to make our car close up as much as we can.
“Who knows what after that during the course of the year,” he added. “But I think that sticking with the objectives we stated at the beginning of this year is still realistic.”