Sebastian Vettel believes Mercedes will be difficult for Ferrari and Red Bull to beat at the Brazilian Grand Prix after Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas led both Friday practice sessions.
Fresh from Hamilton’s drivers’ championship success in Mexico – a race dominated by Max Verstappen – Mercedes secured a one-two in FP1 and FP2 at Interlagos. Despite both Red Bull and Ferrari closing the gap in the second session, Vettel believes it will be tough to match Mercedes on Sunday based on the pace shown.
“Mercedes looked very strong, so I think they’re a bit ahead, both of them,” Vettel said. “Then I think it’s very close between us and Red Bull.
“I think we got more running than expected [in FP2]. There was no rain and it made it a bit easier, but I think overall it’s pretty straightforward: Mercedes seems to be the quickest and then it’s pretty close between Red Bull and us.
“I mean, obviously we planned to run long to see what the tires are like. I think the track was in pretty good shape and I think car wise we can fine-tune the balance and that should help us get the pace up for qualifying and the race. But as I said, it will be difficult to match Mercedes.”
Daniel Ricciardo will take a 10-place grid penalty for power unit component usage, and while he agreed with Vettel that Mercedes’ race pace looks clear of the rest of the field, the Australian believes Red Bull has the edge on Ferrari at this stage of the weekend.
“This morning we didn’t run full beans the whole way – we’ve got to get this engine through to the checkered flag in Abu Dhabi,” Ricciardo said. “We tried to be smart with our usage. This afternoon obviously on the supersofts we were able to run on a normal setting. It looked pretty good.
“Merc are really quick on high fuel. We seem pretty close on low fuel but they’re quick on high fuel, so I think they’ll have a bit more on low fuel tomorrow. But relative to Ferrari, I think we had a pretty good day.”