Vettel expects Mercedes to close gap to Ferrari ahead of qualifying

Cheryl Sanders
April 29, 2017

The Ferraris were more than six-tenths clear of third-placed Valtteri Bottas in the leading Mercedes with teammate and three-time champion Lewis Hamilton admitting he struggled to wind up a disappointing fourth.

Vettel was only third after the first runs in the top-ten shootout, but improved on his second go, posting a 1 minute 33.194 second lap to edge out team-mate Kimi Raikkonen by 0.059secs.

After three rounds this year, Vettel and Ferrari have won twice and Hamilton and Mercedes once, an outcome that has put Vettel on 68 points ahead of Hamilton on 61 ahead of the Russian race.

"It's a circuit that suits them so they will be strong tomorrow", Vettel said.

Raikkonen says he has lost some of the enjoyment from F1 but is only focused on scoring better results at the next round.


"If for any reason, like for me In Bahrain, the pace of the other auto is not good then the team needs to think and be clever and not to lose any points".

"If I have some issues in this race, for whatever reason - we are on different strategies or Lewis is stuck behind me, or something - if the team tells me to move over, I will", said Bottas.

"I think I would have reacted exactly the same way as him", he said.

It was a similarly challenging start for World Championship leader Vettel, who also had a number of offs as he split the two Red Bulls down in P5 and was over a second off the pace set by his team-mate.

"Our approach is the team need to win so we have to try to work as a team but only in special circumstances", Hamilton said.


Hamilton, presented with the winner's trophy by Russian president Vladimir Putin in 2014 and 2015 before now-retired Mercedes team mate and champion Nico Rosberg won from pole position past year, felt the pain in Bahrain.

Dutch teenager Max Verstappen was fifth, despite stopping on circuit following a loss of power, ahead of his Red Bull team-mate Australian Daniel Ricciardo.

But the Finnish driver, who signed only a one-year deal following Rosberg's shock retirement, also hinted that he would be prepared to play the team game if it ensures his future at Mercedes is to last longer than just this season.

Mercedes' triple world champion Hamilton has 54 career victories, putting him second in the all-time list behind Michael Schumacher (91). Behind them, Force India's Sergio Perez is chasing his 14th successive scoring finish while Sauber and McLaren have yet to open their accounts for the season.

Sebastian Vettel is not convinced Ferrari will be able to maintain the advantage it had over Mercedes in Friday practice when it comes to qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix.


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