Formula 1: Coulthard backs Vettel to bring title fight to Hamilton in 2017

Sebastian Vettel remains capable of pipping Lewis Hamilton to the Formula One title, provided Ferrari can hold up their end of the bargain, says David Coulthard.

Vettel was a distant fourth behind the Mercedes of Hamilton and drivers' championship winner Nico Rosberg in 2016 – a season in which the four-time champion grabbed more attention with expletive-filled radio transmissions than his on-track prowess.

Ferrari have struggled to take the fight to Mercedes in the hybrid era and dropped below Red Bull in the pecking order towards the back-end of last season.

However, with new regulations focusing on power – the Italian stable's speciality – Coulthard believes Vettel could finally see the benefit of leaving Red Bull in 2017.

Coulthard told Omnisport: "If Ferrari have at least equal of the Mercedes, if we assume Mercedes are the benchmark, then for sure Vettel will win grands prix and maybe win the championship, because we know how good he is when he really gets a sniff of victory."

With Rosberg having retired, Hamilton has once again been installed as the hot pre-season favourite.

But Coulthard believes Mercedes newcomer Valtteri Bottas will provide stiff opposition, with many other challenges lying in wait elsewhere on the grid.

"Well his [Hamilton] direct comparison will be with his team-mate Valtteri Bottas," said Coulthard.

"We know Valtteri is fast, we know he has come with good credentials from the lower Formula. 

"What we don't know is can he step up and really take the punches with Lewis consistently week in, week out. 

"Nothing makes it easier than a very natural good battle on the racetrack to talk about, if it's two guys separated by some margin that's quite a hard sell, that's a hard afternoon of talking because you're trying to find some excitement in what clearly is not really happening visually. 

"I wish him all the best, I hope he can deliver some big results but Lewis is still exceptional and along with the likes of Fernando [Alonso], Max [Verstappen], Daniel [Ricciardo], a few others, these are already established, exceptional drivers and a lot will depend on how their car works."

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