Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc believe that Formula 1 rival Mercedes AMG Motorsport will prove to be too strong for Scuderia Ferrari at the British Grand Prix.
Red Bull Racing and Mercedes topped Free Practices 1 and 2 respectively at the Silverstone International Circuit on Friday, as Leclerc’s afternoon session effort was the only time a Ferrari driver managed to break into the top three of the standings.
Leclerc was just 0.197 seconds shy of Valtteri Bottas‘s pacesetting time in second practice, with Vettel a further 0.251s back in fourth, but neither driver could get within a second of Pierre Gasly‘s lap in the morning.
Team principal Mattia Binotto admitted before the weekend started that Ferrari could struggle at Silverstone, despite Vettel winning the British GP in 2018, due to the characteristics of the SF90.
Ferrari has brought minor aerodynamic updates to the British weekend, in a bid to pack more downforce onto a car that has pleased the team with its straightline performance.
Vettel, who proved to be one of many drivers struggling with windy conditions at Silverstone, said that the resurfaced track is providing more grip in comparison to previous years; but the German also predicted that while Friday times should not be treated as gospel, Ferrari may have to wait a little longer for a first victory of the 2019 F1 season.
“It’s good to be driving at this circuit again and the new surface seems a lot smoother than the old one, with a lot higher grip, which makes it good fun,” said Vettel.
“I would say the lap times don’t mean much today, as usual on a Friday, but it’s clear that our main rivals seem very strong and are the ones to beat.
“It looks quite close between us and Red Bull, but as we were trying some new things on our car, it’s a bit hard to judge. We must wait for tomorrow to get a clearer picture of where we are.”
Leclerc complained about the state and performance of his front tyres during race simulations in Free Practice 2, an issue that has plagued Ferrari for the majority of the year.
But although the Monégasque echoes Vettel’s belief that Mercedes has the potential to go even faster on Saturday, he says that Ferrari could spring a surprise over one lap.
“It was a tricky day for us,” Leclerc added. “We struggled with our front tyres during the long-runs quite a bit and have to focus on understanding how we can get them to work better.
“The qualifying pace, on the other hand, was not bad and we also managed to run a lot of tests throughout the day which is positive.
“Our competitors are strong and I think that they will only reveal their full potential in qualifying.
“We will give everything to be competitive and will see where we stand tomorrow.”