Four-time Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel has suggested that Valtteri Bottas has been the only driver capable of fighting Lewis Hamilton for the Drivers’ Championship title in recent years, with the overwhelming dominance of the Mercedes car leaving Ferrari unable to compete. The Silver Arrows scooped their fifth successive Constructors’ Championship triumph last season, while Hamilton topped the driver standings for the seventh time to match Michael Schumacher’s impressive record.
Vettel is preparing for the new season with Aston Martin, formerly known as Racing Point, after leaving Ferrari at the end of last year.
The 33-year-old endured a torrid campaign with the Italian heavyweights, earning a place on the podium just once in 17 attempts as the Prancing Horse limped to a sixth-placed finish overall.
The car’s lack of ability to compete, along with a number of individual mistakes, curbed Vettel’s hopes of returning to the front of the grid.
He was visibly frustrated on a regular basis throughout the season amid the deterioration of his working relationship with Ferrari.
However, the new campaign has renewed his hopes of fighting for race wins, with Aston Martin expected to trouble Red Bull and Mercedes once again after an impressive fourth-placed finish last time out.
JUST IN: George Russell clarifies Toto Wolff stance on promotion to Mercedes
Vettel has claimed that he is fully capable of winning a fifth Drivers’ Championship title this season while sending a thinly-veiled dig in the direction of old rival Hamilton.
The German declared that during his time with Ferrari, Mercedes were the only team strong enough to fight for titles, suggesting that Hamilton’s success in F1 has been aided significantly by the machinery underneath him.
“I think I can [win another title],” said Vettel. “Obviously, I am not too old. There are now older drivers joining the grid rather than younger drivers.
“I don’t think it’s an age thing. I just think it’s more of a question of, do you have the team around you?
“Formula 1 has been like this since I can remember and probably before. It is not a secret in the last years that you needed to be in a Mercedes to really fight for the championship.
“I think we were close with Ferrari but never really close enough to have a say in the last two or three races so I don’t think it’s an age thing. I think it’s [another world title] in me.”
Vettel and Hamilton became embroiled in an intense championship battle during the 2017 campaign, when their competitive rivalry came to a head.
The pair clashed on the track at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix when Vettel appeared to deliberately swerve into Hamilton under safety car conditions.
Another close duel ensued in 2018, but their relationship with one another has always been built on respect despite the history between them.
Vettel hailed the Stevenage-born racer at the end of last season, claiming that he is the best driver of his generation after sealing the Drivers’ Championship crown once again.
“I told him it’s very special for us because we can witness history being made today,” Vettel told reporters after November’s Turkish Grand Prix.
“I think he is the greatest of our era for sure.”