Sebastien Vettel says while Ferrari made “a good step” in qualifying for the European Grand Prix, the team will need to work hard to try and understand why the gap to Mercedes is so big.
Vettel was right up with Mercedes in qualifying in Canada just seven days ago, and similarly in the race pushed Lewis Hamilton for the win. However, after qualifying at Baku on Saturday, the German was more than a second back, finishing fourth fastest, although he will start third as Sergio Perez in second has a five-place grid penalty.
“I think we did a good step from yesterday, we were quite a long way off so I think we improved the car,” said Vettel, after posting an identical time to former Red Bull team-mate, Daniel Ricciardo right at the end of Q3, albeit after the Australian and so will start behind.
“Maybe also naturally the conditions came a bit more towards us but overall, obviously still not great if you look at the gap to Mercedes in the front, so that's something we need to try and understand because we know that the car is quick and the pace is there, which we've seen even last week.
“Obviously here is a different circuit, different conditions but yeah, not ideal but nevertheless we've put both cars in a position to have a good race so anything can happen. I'm excited to race tomorrow.”
Pressed on where Ferrari is losing out, Vettel stressed it is not just on the straights and not just related to the power unit.
“Well I think if you look at the gap to pole position, I don't think it's fair [to say it is all about the straights]. We have a strong engine, we have made very good progress and I don't think that's it,” he insisted.
“I know that's not the place that we lose most of the time, there are a lot of corners here and we seem to just struggle to extract the same out of the low speed corners than other people do, arguably also Force India, that's something we need to understand.
“We know that our car is quick but for some reason here and there around this track we seem to struggle a bit.”
Meanwhile, Vettel thinks Sunday's grand prix could be rather chaotic, with safety car periods pretty much guaranteed.
“There is obviously a high likelihood of safety cars, which is just the nature of the track, there isn't much room. If somebody goes straight or loses the car obviously it can cause a safety car easily and then the restart will be quite interesting.
“The straight is very, very, very, very, very long so it depends where you are. If you are in front it's probably not what you wish for, if you are behind then yes if you see that chance to do something [it could be good]. If you are the third or fourth car down the road it's not that powerful anymore because the cars in front have the tow as well but still I think we find out tomorrow how easy or how difficult it is to pass around here and how much the long straight will help but surely from the safety car restart it can be very interesting.”