Vettel expecting open title race
Sebastian Vettel believes Lewis Hamilton can still be a contender for this year's Formula One world title.
After a troubled opening two days of testing for Hamilton's Mercedes team, there were smiles all round on Thursday as Nico Rosberg ran for a punishing 148 laps - the equivalent of two grands prix distances. Rosberg ultimately finished second on the timesheet at the end of the third of four days this week at the Circuito de Jerez with a lap of one minute 18.766secs.
With Rosberg finally proving the Mercedes can be reliable, after an electrical fault curtailed his running on Tuesday, whilst Hamilton crashed following a rear-brake failure on Wednesday, there may yet be hope for the 28-year-old Briton. Asked whether Hamilton could challenge for the championship, Vettel said: "Yes, of course."
Vettel added: "The way last season started with a lot of different teams and drivers winning races, there's nothing that speaks against that happening again this year.
"The regulations haven't really changed, and at some stage I think it will get even closer at the top and so everyone is in the hunt.
"We saw last year Williams set some highlights, winning in Barcelona - not because they were lucky but because they were fast.
"Even if after the last Barcelona test you have a certain favourite, it could all be different in Australia."
Vettel was happy enough with his own return behind the wheel just 74 days after he clinched his third successive crown in Brazil towards the end of November.
"We certainly hit the targets, with many laps," added Vettel, who completed 102. "At this stage it is very difficult to judge anything else, but we can be pretty happy.
"Mark (Webber) had a good two days to start with, and with me taking over it was about shaking off the rust and getting back into shape. It felt good to be out there back in the car which is working very well. I'm really happy with it."