Sebastian Vettel says Ferrari has made progress in Bahrain to rectify the balance issues which affected him during the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. 

The German profited from a fortunately-timed Virtual Safety Car in Melbourne to jump from third place into the race lead, which he maintained to beat Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton to victory at Albert Park.

Despite winning the opening race of the 2018 campaign, Vettel admitted he was not confident with the front-end balance on his SF71-H. But the four-time world champion says his team is already seeing the benefits in Bahrain after working “flat-out” to improve the problem.

“In Australia we were a little bit behind and also in terms of feeling not yet happy,” he explained. “We tried some stuff today mostly to fix the front end because it hasn’t been very strong in Australia and it’s got a bit better. 

“Let’s see where we are tomorrow. I think we can still improve for both short and long run.”

Vettel finished fourth in opening practice at Sakhir before improving to second in the evening session, ending up just 0.011s shy of teammate Kimi Raikkonen, as Ferrari set eye-catching pace to lead rivals Mercedes by over 0.5s. While Vettel was satisfied with his one-lap pace, he expected more from his race-simulations. 

“My long run was OK, I think it should have been a bit stronger. But as I said we tried different things with balance with the car, we tried to get a read.

“It looks like we were a bit quicker than the rest but it depends on the programme. At this point I wouldn’t draw on any conclusions.

“We focus on ourselves and the set-up mostly and try to get a bit better feel which at times was good, at other times was not yet there so still some stuff to do.”

When asked if he felt Ferrari has closed the gap to Mercedes, Vettel replied: “We always hope so, yes. I think we need to wait obviously because I don’t know what happened today. It looked like we were a bit quicker than the rest but it depends a bit on the programme.”


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