Sebastian Vettel ended the opening day of the inaugural Grand Prix of Europe in Baku hoping that Ferrari could find the answer to a sizeable gap separating him from the top of the Friday practice timesheets.
The German ended the early afternoon session in fifth place thanks to a lap that ended under the chequered flag, but dropped back to eighth overall in the second outing, ending his day in the garage after his team told him to slow down and bring the car back safely.
While the message may have been one of caution owing to team-mate Kimi Raikkonen's untimely exit from FP2 just minutes before, Vettel was more concerned about the two-second gap by which he trailed Mercedes' pace-setter Lewis Hamilton, who swept both sessions ahead of team-mate – and F1 points leader - Nico Rosberg.
“It's not nice, not good news. but some of [the gap] we can explain and other bits we have to wait to see what tomorrow brings,” Vettel reasoned, “It's been a tricky day for us, maybe not entirely clean if you look at raw pace, but then again it's Friday, so no need to worry.”
Despite the late call to park up in the pits, Vettel insisted that he did not think there was anything seriously amiss with his SF16-H, and remained confident that he could bridge the gap to the Mercedes-powered cars that occupied the top five places on the timesheets.
“I didn't have a problem but, obviously, Kimi had one, so I don't know if we were taking precautions at the end,” he commented, “I don't know exactly what happened, so we'll see.
“Overall, we have the pace but, today, we struggled to find it. I don't think we had a bad day - it's not great that Kimi couldn't do the end of the session – but we did the laps, the car felt okay, and we got to know the track. That was the main objective for today. What is missing is the speed, but I'm sure we can improve.”