Vettel "surprised" by gap to Mercedes


Any lingering thoughts, following yesterday's practice sessions, that Ferrari was sandbagging, were subsequently dispelled by the Italian team itself.

While almost all the teams had issued their analysis of the day's events within a couple of hours of the end of FP2, the wait on Ferrari went on and on and on.

Had the new been good, the Maranello outfit would have been only too happy to shout it from the rooftops, instead the silence was deafening… and ultimately revealing.

Today, everyone's worst fears were realised, when, having dominated all three practice sessions, Lewis Hamilton took pole with a 0.7s advantage over Sebastian Vettel.

We say "everyone's" worst fears, because, that sort of advantage so early on in the season, does nothing to convince that Mercedes domination of the sport in the hybrid era is about to end any time soon.

Asked if he was surprised by the deficit to Mercedes, Vettel couldn't hide his feelings.

"Surprised? I think everybody is... probably even themselves.

"Yesterday we didn't have a good day," he continued. "Today felt better but in terms of gap and pace, it was very similar.

"For sure there's some homework for us to do to understand," he admitted. "I still think we have a great car and we should be better than this - so I'm looking forward to tomorrow. We'll see over... I don't know how many laps... 56? 58? 58 laps we have some time to get a proper read of where we are - but certainly Mercedes are the clear favourite if you have such a big gap and comfort throughout qualifying. All the sessions.

"We've got to live with it today but tomorrow is a new day," he said, echoing the words of another Scarlet who lost out. "We've done it before, around here especially, so, we'll see."

Asked if the SF90 has changed since Barcelona, or Mercedes has somehow improved, he replied: "It's difficult to compare. We have something like 10, 15 degrees more ambient, hotter track, different circuit, so overall different conditions - but the car felt really good at testing and probably around here, so far this weekend it didn't feel as good - yet.

"As I said, yesterday was a difficult day for us. It was tricky. Today felt a bit better - but there's not an awful lot of time to try different things. Obviously you have to get on with it and the sessions come fast: especially in qualifying, you can't really change much. If anything, you get a better understanding of maybe where you're losing out or where it feels uncomfortable.

"So for us, I think, there is still a bit of margin but certainly the gap is there today, and it was a surprise. We didn't expect it coming here but now it is that way. And, as I said, we focus on tomorrow and don't worry about the gap now."

Asked about his comment yesterday, that he didn't have confidence in the car, and what it is lacking, the German said: "I thought the sectors might still be there. I think a little bit of everything.

"I don't think the straight-line (speed) is a problem, I think we are quite competitive down the straights," he continued, "but I think we're just losing in the corners.

"There are 16 corners around here and I think it's a fairly even spread so probably by the looks of it... and so far it was more in the medium and lower speed stuff rather than the high speed stuff which, I would say, also speaks for a strong car in general.

"I haven't got the balance yet which maybe I would like to have, especially in lower speed, and not the confidence and trust which again, around here, can make a big difference because it's a bumpy track and I hope they don't resurface it because it's part of the character of this track.

"It's fairly evenly spread around the track but I would say more towards the lower speed corners and it's easier, I would say, to lose time there. But given the gap is so big, we must lose time in more than one place, for sure."

Meanwhile, teammate Charles Leclerc blamed himself for not getting the best out of his car.

"I'm not happy with myself," said the youngster, "I didn't do the job in Q3 which I think is a shame.

"In Q1 and Q2 it was positive on my side," he added. "The first run in Q3 was pretty OK but the second run I just did a mistake and locked up into Turn 1 and it was a scrappy run from my side.

"It's a shame as the top three was definitely there, top two not, but we will work to get better."

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Published: 16/03/2019
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