Sebastian Vettel: Mercedes in league of its own in practice

Ferrari Formula 1 driver Sebastian Vettel says Mercedes looked "much stronger than they claimed before the weekend" in Australian Grand Prix Friday practice

Sebastian Vettel: Mercedes in league of its own in practice

Vettel's Ferrari team was the pre-season favourite after Barcelona testing, and Mercedes publicly acknowledged that its rival looked to have the edge.

Heading into the Melbourne opener, Lewis Hamilton insisted Mercedes' estimations of its deficit in testing were "not BS".

But Hamilton then swept both Friday sessions in Australia, going eight tenths of a second faster than the quickest non-Mercedes in practice two.

Vettel jokingly referred to pre-season claims of Mercedes struggling as "bullshit", before adding that he was genuinely surprised by its performance.

"It was a bit of a surprise," he said. "I thought they looked really quick.

"And I don't know if it was just us struggling a bit today, or also others, but as a matter of fact I think they were in a league of their own.

"Maybe everyone else was struggling and then we can turn it around, but they certainly look very strong and much stronger than they claimed before the weekend."

Vettel and new team-mate Charles Leclerc were both within a tenth of Hamilton in first practice, but slumped to fifth and ninth respectively in the second session.

Asked why Ferrari lacked pace compared to Mercedes in practice two, Vettel said: "We don't know the reasons but we're looking for them", before joking "if you find them, let us know and lead them to our garage".

He said Ferrari "didn't get into the groove" on Friday, and believes there is a lot of lap time to be picked up once he regains confidence in the car.

"I can feel I have the car under me that I had in testing, but it doesn't do the same things, it's not doing exactly what I like here and there, and that's why I'm lacking confidence," he explained.

"I don't think it was awful. Here and there, there were bits that were really, really good and we can build on."

Leclerc said first practice had been "very positive" but that he was struggling to get the tyres switched on and cope with the wind later on.

He insisted there was "no panic" at Ferrari heading into qualifying day.

"At the end we are not flat-out, that's for sure. We will only see in qualifying where we are exactly," he said.

"Are we panicking? No, not yet."


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