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Happy with car: Vettel

- ‘Expect this season to be as tight as last year’

Jerez: Ferrari’s Brazilian driver Felipe Massa topped the time charts on the third day of pre-season Formula One testing on Thursday as world champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull marked his first appearance of the winter with third place.

Speaking about his time in the car, Vettel said he was happy with the car but was cautious about making too many judgements about the RB9.

“So far, I think we can be pretty happy. Mark had a good two days to start with and I took over today.

“It was about clearing the rust and getting back in shape. So it felt good to be out there and good to be back in the car.

“I think the car is working very good; obviously it’s difficult to judge the speed but in terms of reliability it looked pretty good and I also feel happy with the car so far.”

Vettel expects the 2013 season to be “as tight as last year”.

“It could be that a favourite emerges after the three tests, but it could turn out to be completely different in Australia because it’s a different track, a different characteristic,” Vettel said.

“I expect it to be at least as tight as last year, the regulations haven’t really changed. So it’s difficult to make up a lot of ground.

“The car feels good… I think from the outside there’s not that much new but mostly stuff underneath and that all seemed to work in terms of reliability which is now the most important thing.”

Talking about the session, Massa, whose future at Ferrari had been the subject of much speculation after his disappointing eighth place finish last season, clocked 1 minute 17.879 seconds as he thrived in the absence of teammate Fernando Alonso, who is skipping the first pre-season testing.

His time just edged the week’s previous best set by Lotus driver Romain Grosjean on Wednesday.