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Sebastian Vettel confident of safety ahead of F1 season opener

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Vettel confident of Ferrari victory Melbourne, March 13 (IANS): Four-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel said he has full confidence in the ...

Vettel confident of Ferrari victory

Melbourne, March 13 (IANS): Four-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel said he has full confidence in the event's safety aspects despite persistent rumours that Fernando Alonso suffered an electric shock in pre-season testing.

Ahead of this weekend's Australian Grand Prix here, Vettel said on Thursday he completely trusted the decisions of his new team Ferrari, reports Xinhua.

"Nobody wants to send us on the track when they believe that something is not right. We have far too much of a team spirit - in all of the teams I would say - to let that happen," he said from Melbourne's Albert Park circuit.

"When the team decides that it is safe to run, it is safe to run."

Alonso, the 2007 champion, will miss the opening race in Melbourne. He preferred to avoid risking a second concussion following his crash in pre-season testing at Barcelona.

A lack of video of the crash led to conspiracy theories including that Alonso was overcome by battery fumes or was electrocuted. His team, McLaren-Honda, categorically denied any mechanical failure and blamed a gust of wind.

Vettel, who fulfilled a boyhood dream when he switched from Red Bull to Ferrari, said it was an honour to race for the Italian heavyweights.

"I am very happy at this stage and I can't wait to get in the car and finally start racing with the team," he said.

"But equally, we know that we have to work hard because our ambition is very high and we want to make sure Ferrari gets back to the top."

He dismissed the notion his long-term friendship with new teammate Kimi Raikkonen could be damaged with the pair now competing in identical cars.

"To be honest, no (it won't). I've known Kimi for a while now. I think we respect each other. He's very straightforward and honest, which I appreciate a lot," said Vettel.

"For sure, we will try to beat each other on the track - I think that's normal - but if there are some issues, we're old enough to talk about it and sort it out."

The German dominated F1 from 2010 to 2013 when he won four consecutive titles for Red Bull but the switch to smaller, turbo-charged engines in 2014 saw the German fail to win a race.

Lewis Hamilton however did win last year, hauling together 11 wins and the drivers' championship as his team, Mercedes, dominated F1.

With a successful defence of his title this year, Hamilton will match the three titles won by his boyhood hero, legendary F1 champion Ayrton Senna.

"I would say that I always wanted to do what Ayrton did," Hamilton said.

"Ayrton was my favourite driver and I guess as a kid, I always wanted to emulate him."

He said he has placed no extra importance on starting this season well, despite being forced to play catch-up with teammate Nico Rosberg last year after the Briton retired in Melbourne.

"It's the same. I don't see a particular exaggerated importance compared to any other time," he said.

"There's a long, long way to go (in the season) so it's not the most important start of the year."

Hamilton signed his first contract with McLaren in 1997, the same year F1 debutant Max Verstappen was born.

The 17-year-old is too young for a licence for Australian public roads, but he will race a Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 car on Melbourne's Albert Park circuit this weekend.

Despite being the youngest F1 driver in the category's 65 year history, the son of the Netherlands' most successful driver, Jos Verstappen said he did not feel out of his element.

"To be honest, since I was younger, I've never seen anything else because my dad was doing it. I basically grew up with it. For me, it doesn't feel like anything new. I just deal with it," he said.

"Compared to last year where I did three Friday practices, the car is a really good step forward, especially on the long runs," the Dutchman added.

"It gives me a lot of confidence to go into this race."

The first practice will begin on Friday, ahead of Sunday's race.


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