Sebastian Vettel believes Ferrari’s scintillating one-lap pace has masked its performance weaknesses over a full race distance during recent Formula 1 grand prix weekends.

Ferrari has claimed the last six pole positions on offer amid a resurgent spell of form since the summer break, though it has only managed to convert three of them into victories in Spa, Italy and Singapore.

At last weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix, Vettel was unable to catch and overtake Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages of the race, despite having much fresher tyres in the second stint. The German reckons Mercedes remains the benchmark in terms of race performances.

“I think in terms of race pace it’s pretty clear,” Vettel said when he addressed media ahead of this weekend’s United States Grand Prix in Austin.

“In qualifying we find ourselves in a good position. Obviously at the last race Max was on pole by quite a bit but overall once again we were more or less fighting for the front row.

“In the race we concede that we drift back a bit and we can’t confirm that strong pace over one lap with fresh tyres in the race with many, many laps.

“There’s still some work to do with the weaknesses that we’ve been facing all year. I think we’ve closed the gap but in the races there’s still a bit of a gap.

“Have we closed the gap entirely? I don’t think so. I think in qualifying we know that we are very strong, and I think the new tyre allows us to mask certain areas where we’re weak.

“Whereas in the race we don’t have new tyres every lap, we obviously haven’t got enough tyres! I think we are falling behind a little bit and I think Mercedes are still the benchmark in the race.

“Sometimes they are quite a bit faster and if you’re faster ultimately you’ll find your way around with one car or with two cars on the track through strategy, whatever it is, so that’s how it is.”

Asked whether he thinks Ferrari’s inability to win the last three races was down to bad luck or a deeper issue, Vettel replied: “In Sochi my car broke down, otherwise it would’ve been a 1-2. 

“I think in Japan ultimately we didn’t have the pace and when we don’t have the pace, the ultimate pace, you get beaten one way or the other in the race. Maybe similar in Mexico.

“Obviously in Mexico I think we explained the strategy, no point to go into that again. But I don’t look at the glass half empty. I look at it half full. I think we are in a much stronger position in the last couple of races than we’ve been before that.”

Additional reporting by Julianne Cerasoli

 

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