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Formula One 2016

Rapid Sebastian Vettel aims to take title challenge to Mercedes after impressive start to winter testing

Four-time world champion Vettel believes he can end Lewis Hamilton’s domination to land the Italian giants first drivers’ championship in eight years

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 February, 2016, 10:30am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 February, 2016, 10:30am

Four-time Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel believes he can end Mercedes’ and Lewis Hamilton’s domination of the sport to land the Italian giants first drivers’ championship in eight years.

Not just for the fans but for myself and the whole team we’d love to fight for the title until the very end and have a decent chance
Sebastian Vettel

Vettel topped the time sheets on the first day of preseason testing in Barcelona on Monday just under a month out from the first race of the season in Australia on March 20.

The German won the only three races not won by defending world champion Hamilton or his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg last season.

Indeed, Mercedes’ dominance in winning 32 of 38 grands prix in the last two seasons has led to calls for rules changes to increase competition, whilst F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone claimed the sport was “the worst it has ever been” on Monday.

However, Vettel is hopeful of pushing Hamilton and Rosberg all the way this season.

“Not just for the fans but for myself and the whole team we’d love to fight for the title until the very end and have a decent chance,” he said.

“Obviously last year we had a surprising year which was very good for us, especially for the atmosphere and motivation of the team, and hopefully we can carry that into this year.

“Naturally, if you finish second in the constructors’ championship you want to make that final step. It would be great for us and everyone else bar Mercedes.”

Hamilton was second fastest, nearly half a second down on Vettel. However, with seven more days of testing to come before the season gets started, it was Mercedes’ remarkable reliability that sent shockwaves round the paddock.

Hamilton logged a marathon 156 laps – well over double the 69 Vettel managed.

Vettel admitted he was slightly frustrated not to get more time on the track, but is confident the SF16-H is a significant improvement on last year’s car.

“Generally it seems like a step up. I felt confident in the car straight away.

There is a lot of work still to do, the result today is nice but it doesn’t mean much. It is better to be first in about a month’s time
Sebastian Vettel

“There is a lot of work still to do, the result today is nice but it doesn’t mean much. It is better to be first in about a month’s time.

“Last year the guys in the garage worked miracles. They’ve been working very hard so naturally it is a bit better.

“We were happy with the car and how it felt. We did some laps, ideally we would have more, but when things are new you take a little bit more caution when problems arise and investigate them.”