Sebastian Vettel says he is much happier with this year's Ferrari than he was with the 2014 Red Bull, a car he struggled to come to terms with.
The four-time champion said ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix that his performance in Australia provided proof that Ferrari has made good progress.
Vettel was Mercedes' closest challenger in Melbourne, finishing third, albeit far behind race winner Lewis Hamilton.
"I think it's natural that the cars make a step forward, and to be honest since the first day I felt quite happy," he said.
"Last year's car I was obviously struggling a little bit here and there, and not entirely happy.
"Whereas with this year's car, and the Ferrari of this year, since the first day I was reasonably happy with the balance we have in the car.
"We know that we have to improve, but in terms of what I can feel and what I can do I was quite happy."
New tyres helping
"I think maybe also the rear tyres helped a little bit, obviously they made a bit of a change over the winter. In general I think I like the flow the car had.
"Last year that was a bit of a problem here and there. In the end you get used to it and you drive it as quick as you can or at least as quick as you think you can."
Regarding this year's pecking order he said: "I think the favourites are clear, just look at the gap from Australia, and then after that I think it will be very close.
"We'll try to obviously confirm the results and the impression we left in Australia, so we try to make sure that we establish ourselves in a similar position, ideally a little bit closer to Mercedes, and ideally a little bit further away from Williams, but I expect it to be very, very close, especially between us and Williams.
"And also Red Bull I think it's a question of timer, when they will come back. At the moment I think they are struggling a bit. I think behind Mercedes it will be very, very close."