Mercedes 'still the favourite' - Vettel unmoved in Shanghai


Sebastian Vettel refused to take on the tag of race favourite for the Chinese Grand Prix, despite opening the 2017 F1 season with victory for Ferrari in Australia.

A Mercedes error in strategy cost Lewis Hamilton at Albert Park and helped Vettel to victory as the Silver Arrows were knocked off the top of the drivers' and constructors' standings for the first time in the hybrid era.

Shanghai should offer more by the way of a power advantage, which could play into Mercedes' hands - they have won the last three races in Shanghai.

The wet conditions of Vettel's solitary China victory in 2009 are expected again this weekend, but the German remains cautious.

"Mercedes has to be still the favourite," he told a news conference. 

"We had a very strong first race but the way we look inside the team, we go race by race.

"We know we have a good package which puts us in the top places. We know there's a lot of things we need to do to keep up with them and to keep the position we are in to win races."

Vettel's stable-mate Kimi Raikkonen was a distant fourth in Melbourne, but the Finn is expecting better in Shanghai.

"I think we learned a lot, we understand quite a bit, but everything came a bit late," he said.

"We didn't get a very good result but comparing to the last few years it was far from a disaster. 

"We had some difficulties, we knew afterwards we could have been much faster, but as a team we did a pretty solid, job, we got some points, but now it's a new place, so let's see."

Raikkonen was one of a few drivers to test Pirelli's new wet tyres in pre-season - with rain expected for much of the race weekend - but the Finn does not expect to gain an advantage.

"It wasn't proper wet [conditions]. It's always very hard to make the same conditions, if it's raining like it is now, just dumping water on the circuit," he added.

"We have different tyres here for the wet so it's a bit unknown but it's same for everybody. If the car is good in the dry it's usually good in the wet too. Any condition we should be OK."