Sebastian Vettel confident of title push and still hopes to partner Kimi Raikkonen
World Champion expected to be partnered by Daniel Ricciardo in 2014
By Pete Gill. Last Updated: August 22, 2013 3:59pm
World Championship leader Sebastian Vettel has shied away from identifying Lewis Hamilton as his main challenger for the title - but expressed his disappointment at the likelihood that Kimi Raikkonen will not be his team-mate in 2014.
Hamilton cut his deficit to Vettel in the standings to 48 points ahead of the summer break courtesy of victory in Hungary, his first for his new Mercedes team.
Yet despite Hamilton securing three successive pole positions, and Mercedes winning three of the last five races, Vettel says that he hasn't given any thought as to whether Hamilton, rather than either Fernando Alonso or Kimi Raikkonen, will pose the biggest threat to his ambition of landing a fourth successive title.
"For us, it's not important to pick out one particular person or driver or team. First of all we have to get our stuff together and I think we have a great car, a great team and overall a strong package which will be good enough to fight for victory in the next couple of races," the World Champion said.
"Mercedes have been very competitive, not just Lewis but also Nico [Rosberg]. We know they are very strong in qualifying, and in Hungary they had the ability to show their speed in the race as well. In the last couple of races, they have been the most competitive, but Lotus have always been there scoring points and Ferrari are in a bit of a low at the moment but they still have good points."
Following Mark Webber's announcement he will leave Red Bull and F1 at the end of the season, Vettel will have a new team-mate in 2014, with Daniel Ricciardo expected to replace his compatriot. Widespread disappointment at the denial of Raikkonen and Vettel forming a 'dream team' line-up appears to be shared by the German as well, and having previously admitted he would like the challenge of facing Raikkonen, Vettel says he still hopes that he could yet partner the Finn in the future.
"I didn't know how realistic or not it was, and obviously I've learnt from the press that it looks like it won't be the case. For sure, I'm talking to the team but as I've said many times it was not my decision," said Sebastian.
"Kimi would have been nice in many ways but now it's not happening it doesn't make much sense to talk about it. Who knows, he's young, I'm still young, so a lot of things can happen - never say never. But probably for next year it's not going to happen."
Yet while Raikkonen will not be team-mates with Vettel next year, it appears increasingly possible that the Finn will form an all-star partnership alongside Alonso at Ferrari amid ongoing speculation the team are considering rehiring the 2007 World Champion as a replacement for the struggling Felipe Massa.
"I get along quite well with Kimi and I would be happy if he finds a spot where he is happy," added Vettel. "He has a good seat at the moment with Lotus but if he can improve then I would be happy for him. Kimi is very straightforward, you don't get any bull with him, but I don't know how realistic it is for him to join Ferrari."