Sebastian Vettel admits that he was shocked by the pace Mercedes was able to show relative to Ferrari during the last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix.
Ferrari appeared quick throughout testing and arrived in Australia as the favorite for victory, but struggled to replicate its pre-season form at Albert Park. With Mercedes locking out the front row and race-winner Valtteri Bottas finishing nearly a minute clear of Vettel, the four-time world champion says Ferrari needs to use the time before Bahrain to try and work out where its pace disappeared to.
“It’s a long year,” Vettel said. “Now we need to get back and understand (the issues). It’s surprising and shocking how fast Mercedes was, and how easy it was for them. But we look at ourselves, and now we have a couple of days to have a good look, read all the feedback again, go through everything that we collected and see what we can do and come up with in the next two weeks.”
The gap to the two Mercedes drivers grew significantly in the second part of the race, when Vettel lost out to Max Verstappen and dropped away from podium contention.
“At the first race you never really expect a certain result, but certainly I expected better form,” he said. “I was a bit surprised. I think the first stint was in line with what we saw the whole weekend, but the second stint was off. I’m not sure why. I was wondering why I was so slow.”
Elaborating on his struggles later in the race, Vettel says the decision to pit early was still the right one given the pace other drivers were able to show despite a short first stint.
“Clearly there was something going on. I didn’t have the same trust and feel in the car that I had in the first stint, so I was struggling with overall pace throughout the second stint, and obviously at the end I was really struggling with tires.
“So, arguably yes, we were a little bit early in the box, on the other hand there were people stopping at the same time as us that didn’t struggle that much in the end. So I don’t think it’s the strategy to blame, really.”