Sebastian Vettel admits he still doesn’t feel confident with the handling and performance of Ferrari’s 2019 Formula 1 car after the opening four rounds of the season.

The four-time F1 world champion has struggled for pace in relative terms to his inexperienced teammate Charles Leclerc, in his first season at Ferrari and just second year in F1, which has also left him struggling to match the performance of runaway leaders Mercedes and its drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton.

After settling for third place behind the Mercedes duo at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, where he felt he lost key pace in the opening stint on the soft tyres, Vettel accepts he’s still lacking confidence with the Ferrari SF90 despite a full pre-season testing programme, four Grands Prix weekends plus a test day in Bahrain with his 2019 F1 car.

“We need stronger pace, simple as that. We need to be faster. I’m convinced we’ve been looking very strong but overall not strong enough,” Vettel said. “It seems that for us it’s more of a conscious effort to get the car in the right window, whereas maybe for them [Mercedes] it seems to click a little bit easier. Especially a place like around here [Baku City Circuit], you need the confidence in the car.

“I’m not yet there. I can feel that I’m not driving at my best because simply the car does not answer or does not respond the way I like. And then I think it’s unnatural.”

Despite his frustrations Vettel believes it’s a problem all drivers face at some point in their careers and is hopeful of curing the issues holding him back at the upcoming rounds to kick-start his F1 campaign.

“I think everybody’s been there,” he said. “I think all drivers know that sort of feeling: when it’s not there, then your judgement is normally right, to not go there because you end-up losing the car. So, yeah, I seem to be more sensitive at the first races than at the test.

“The test was really good but that’s a long time ago now. We need to look forward and improve the way we handle things, the way we work to just get faster.”

Vettel sits third in the F1 drivers’ world championship but is already 35 points behind early leader Bottas after just four races.

 

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