Ferrari has shifted its focus towards the 2018 season even as it looks to win the final race of the season, four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel admitted.
The Maranello based team gave an excellent fight to Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton for most of the current season. But after a string of problems in the Asian races, the Italian team and its German driver fell off the challenge.
Vettel lost the title to Hamilton at the Mexican Grand Prix but still scored a win at the Interlagos ending his seven-race win-less run.
When asked if Ferrari is focused on 2018 or still planning its last race, Vettel said: “We try stuff all the time to improve the car, not specifically for next year, but everything we tried the last two weeks is for next year.
“The mindset is that we are already in next year. Obviously, it’s important to finish the season on a high – the better the result the better the mood.
“We try our best, but in our heads I think we are already thinking about next year’s car.”
Vettel’s first free practice run at the Yas Marinas saw him best Hamilton by 0.012 seconds, only for the Briton to come back 0.149s faster than the German in the second session.
“I was very happy with the lap,” he said. “Maybe the last sector, there was a bit more. Overall, it was OK. If I can behave in the last sector, there should be some more time there.”
After securing both the titles, Mercedes has been trying out some experimental 2018 parts on their current car. Valtteri Bottas ran “different kinds of mechanical and especially aero tests” during the first practice.
After a good performance in FP2, Hamilton says he was “happy” to be done with the final Friday of the season and is looking forward to winning the season’s last race.
“It’s just been a long year,” said Hamilton. “It feels like it’s gone on forever. I’m kind of running out of steam towards the end of the year, but it’s been a good day.”
He added: “There’s no need to let off, and there’s still a lot to gain and a lot to achieve in winning this race.”
Hamilton secured his third championship title at the US Grand Prix back in 2015. But in 2016, he had to fight hard with his fellow Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg in the last three races. And now he is looking forward to finishing the season on a high note.
“Ultimately when you finish off strong it makes it easier to start strong the following season so that’s really my goal,” he said. “We’ve worked so hard that as a team we deserve to finish with a strong race.”