Mercedes was in another league during Friday practice for the Australian Grand Prix as Ferrari struggled to get the most out of its car, admits Sebastian Vettel.
Ferrari looked strong throughout pre-season testing, but Mercedes ended up with a best lap just 0.003s slower on the final day in Barcelona. Two weeks later and it was Mercedes on top on the opening day in Melbourne, with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas enjoying an advantage of 0.8s over the rest of the field.
“Unsurprisingly?” Vettel replied when it was suggested Mercedes had been expected to be quickest. “Did you say unsurprisingly? What was all that bulls**t about with them being out of shape and so on? I didn’t understand that, to be honest. So it was a bit of a surprise, yes!
“I think they looked really quick, and I don’t know if it was just us struggling a bit today or others, but as a matter of fact they were in a league of their own. Maybe everyone else was struggling and then we can turn it around, but they looked very strong and much stronger than they claimed before the weekend.”
But Vettel’s mood was not dampened too much by Mercedes’ pace, saying he feels there is plenty more lap time for Ferrari to unlock.
“It was a tricky day for us and probably a tricky day for everyone. I think for us we are not where we would like to be — not in terms of lap time but in terms of car feel and handling.
“We didn’t really get into the groove and rhythm and that’s quite important around here. So if we can get that confidence and that groove back, there is a lot of lap time in that around here.
“I had this more than once, but I can feel that I have the car under me that I had in testing. It is not doing the same thing here and there and that is why I am lacking confidence. But we are all here working flat out to try and to try and understand what happened in the session, the things that we tried and how they changed it.
“So I don’t think it was an awful session — I think here and there bits were good, so it’s about how we go from there and the things we can build on.”