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Can Ferrari challenge for the drivers’ and constructors’ titles this season?

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When Mercedes speedy Nico Rosberg joked with four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel in Australian Grand Prix a fortnight ago that he expected Ferrari may boost up and join the battle with Mercedes, no one imagined it would happen so soon.

But on Sunday, Ferrari enjoyed the searing heat of Malaysia, playing into its already good management of the Pirelli tyres. Strategic race was gifted a top podium, as Sebastian Vettel savoured his first victory since Brazil 2013, Ferrari’s first since Spain that year, and their first together in only his second race for the Scuderia.

Vettel, now just three points behind defending world champion Lewis Hamilton in the title standings, agrees.

“We have to be realistic,” said the German. “They (Mercedes) had a very big gap in winter testing and in the first race, which does not just evaporate.

“Our target has to be that the gap between them and us keeps getting smaller, as the gap will still be there,” added Vettel.

Toto Wolff admits that Malaysia Grand Prix might be remembered as a “wake-up call” to Mercedes, who did not expect to be so strongly challenged by Ferrari.

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