Sebastian Vettel says that Scuderia Ferrari can still challenge Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport in tomorrow’s Russian Grand Prix, even though the German stood over half-a-second away from polesitter Valtteri Bottas in qualifying.
Vettel qualified in third as the Silver Arrows locked out the front row. Even with Vettel’s championship rival Lewis Hamilton abandoning his final attempt, the German could not get close to the Mercedes performance. Vettel’s Ferrari team-mate, Kimi Räikkönen, was a further three-tenths back in fourth.
Despite Mercedes looking likely to continue their unbeaten record at the Sochi Autodrom, Vettel believes that all is not lost for Ferrari and reported that the car felt better in comparison to yesterday’s Free Practice sessions. Damningly, Vettel ceded that both he and Räikkönen “just weren’t fast enough” and failed to utilise the car’s full potential.
“I think the car today was better than yesterday,” said Vettel, who stands 40 points adrift of Hamilton with six rounds remaining.
“The session was fine, and I think we could use our car to its full potential, there was nothing wrong with it, but we just weren’t fast enough.”
Vettel admitted over team radio to making a small error on his best lap, costing him “one-and-a-half or two tenths“.
Such is the dominance of the top two teams, the front four will start the race on ultra-soft tyres, the middle compound brought to Sochi by Pirelli Motorsport. Due to the long run down to Turn 2 – the first braking zone on the Sochi track – Vettel warned against getting a flawless start, with the risk of giving the trailing cars an unwanted slipstream.
“Nevertheless, the race is tomorrow, and if I can bring the good feeling I had towards the end of the session into the race, then I think we are in a good position,” he surmised.
“For sure, I want to do everything well and I think that there is a chance to overtake after the start.
“We need a good getaway-but not too good, otherwise you end up giving the other guy a tow.”