Sebastian Vettel admits he is starting the Russian Grand Prix on the back foot after struggling for pace in his Ferrari during Friday practice.
Vettel set the fifth fastest time during the second practice session and finished 0.543s off title rival Lewis Hamilton. Although the Red Bulls in third and fourth will be shuffled to the back of the grid with engine penalties, the gap to Mercedes is still significant on a weekend when Vettel needs to win to keep his realistic championship chances alive.
It was a similar story during race simulations in FP2 after Vettel spun on his first attempt on hyper-soft tyres and then struggled with tyre degradation on the ultra-softs. He admitted he and Ferrari had a lot of work to do to turn the situation around in time for Saturday’s qualifying session.
“Tricky,” was his one-word assessment of the session. “I mean obviously we looked quite far away from the rest of the field, so not ideal.
“I think struggling a bit for one lap but also in long run. I think we went through our tyres a bit harder and quicker than the rest, so we need to have a look.
“But also just looking at ourselves, it wasn’t a good day in terms of feel for the car. I think there’s more that we need to do.”
Vettel’s long run pace wasn’t helped by traffic getting in his way, but he admitted that wasn’t the only problem.
“That’s Friday for you, sometimes you have a better Friday, sometimes not. I think for us it wasn’t a particularly clean run in the end, but still good enough.
“I think as I said, we struggled with the tyres with or without traffic. Certainly the traffic doesn’t help, but I think we have some catching up to do.”