Despite failing to get within four-tenths of the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport cars in either of Friday’s Free Practice sessions, Sebastian Vettel described Scuderia Ferrari‘s day as “smooth” and believes that there is more performance to find.
The German ended the morning in fifth, behind team-mate Kimi Räikkönen, before jumping up to third in the afternoon – still eight-tenths shy of the commanding Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton was so pleased with his and Mercedes’ Friday that he giggled over the radio: “This track is awesome! I’m having the best day.”
Furthermore, Vettel complained about sliding that proved to be detrimental to the tyres. Ferrari lagged behind on the softer compound tyres in comparison to Mercedes, but the four-time champion revealed he was “satisfied” with the work done, but admits that they lacked troubling pace.
“All in all I am satisfied,” mused Vettel. “As I think this Friday has been a smooth one for us, but we aren’t fast enough yet.
“Today we tried something with the car, which seemed to give a better feeling, so let’s see if we can carry this over tomorrow and find something else, too.
“Today I think the car slid a little bit too much, thus damaging the tires, but I believe that, overall it was a clean session with no interruptions.”
Vettel said that the deficit to the ultimate pace means that Ferrari “have to work hard” overnight, with Mercedes expected to also find performance gains. In order to stay in the championship fight, Vettel and Ferrari must stop Mercedes from winning their fifth consecutive Japanese Grand Prix.
Indeed, Japan is made all the more crucial by the nature of the Suzuka International Racing Course testing all round engine performance. Since Canada, Ferrari have been believed to be ahead of Mercedes in that department.
“We are trying to get the best out of our package, so we keep focusing on our job,” he added.
“Tonight we have to work hard because we need to be fast in qualifying. Obviously, if the others are as strong tomorrow as they were today, then it will be very hard, but we’ll see.”
Concluding with a more balanced view, Vettel pondered about the chances of a wet qualifying session before noting that the weekend is still in its early phases.
“Rain could make things more interesting tomorrow, but for now we keep working hard, doing our job and then we’ll see.
“It’s a long weekend and today is only Friday, so I am sure there’s still a bit to squeeze out of the car.”