Sebastian Vettel established Red Bull Racing as the early challenger for what is likely to be third place in the Canadian Grand Prix, as he finished behind the two Mercedes at the end of Friday's free practice sessions.

The German had to rely on a late bid for position, however, as his initial running in the afternoon session was hampered by a gearbox problem that kept him in the garage for some time.

"It was a bit of a shame to lose so many laps, but fortunately we could go out again, even if we lost some rhythm compared to other people," the world champion admitted after ending the day four-tenths adrift of pacesetter Lewis Hamilton, "We had a problem with the gearbox so we had to check it after the run, [but] overall I think it was an okay day and we did a decent amount of laps."

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Seeing both Mercedes ahead of him on the final timesheet - and potential rivals shaping up in the form of Ferrari, Williams and McLaren - will only have convinced Vettel that he is in the midst of a tough scrap for the final podium spot, even given the excuse that the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has frequently not been a happy hunting ground for RBR.

"Mercedes is very quick and we will try everything tomorrow," he confirmed, "I think there is still a lot of improvement that we can do and we will try to find as much as possible but, obviously, Mercedes are very quick around here.

"It is a tricky track for us, and we know that sometimes it can be quite hard with all the straight lines as we're not the quickest down the straights, but there's no point repeating that all the time - it is what it is. We've just got to make sure we set the car properly for the corners so we can catch up as much time as possible..."