Ferrari one and two in Practice Two, but drivers not yet totally happy
Sebastian Vettel is cautiously optimistic about Ferrari’s chances of making more of a fight for pole with Mercedes in China – but warned against getting too excited over their pace-setting on Friday.
For the first time this season, Ferrari ended the opening day of a race weekend ahead of Mercedes on the timesheet, with their advantage over their rivals two tenths of a second on the supersoft tyres.
Ferrari, polesitters just once in dry conditions in the last six seasons and already playing catch-up in this year’s championship, have trailed Mercedes by an average of 0.7 seconds in Q3 so far this season – but Mercedes believe there is more to come from their rivals.
Asked by Sky Sports F1 to assess their pole chances on Saturday, Vettel said: “It depends what the others are doing, but I think if we get everything right we could be closer.
“But then it is only Friday today so I wouldn’t stress. I wouldn’t put too much importance in the times today.”
After eight successive Mercedes qualifying one-twos, Ferrari head into Saturday knowing they are still likely to qualify with one car on the front row after Lewis Hamilton collected a five-place grid penalty.
But predictions for how the grid could shape up for Sunday’s race are likely to be revised in any case should rain forecast for Saturday in Shanghai hit during the qualifying hour.
“The weather forecast for tomorrow is a bit uncertain, but we can still improve,” added Vettel. “The balance of the car was not yet where I want it to be, but overall I think it was a decent day.”
Despite setting the outright pace in P2, team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was not completely satisfied with the handling of his Ferrari either and suggested the supersoft tyre – the compound he set his fastest lap of 1:36.896 on – was the only one which he had been happy with.
Pirelli’s quickest and fastest-wearing compound is unlikely to be used beyond the first stint in Sunday’s race.
“I only used the medium in the morning and it didn’t feel very good,” the Finn told Sky F1. “But the softs didn’t feel very good, the supersoft was the best, but it is too early to say.
“Not an easy day, maybe the wind or whatever, it felt very slippery. With the supersoft it improved a bit, but nowhere near ideal.”