Sebastian Vettel is confident Ferrari can make another “step forward” at the Brazilian Grand Prix after topping Friday practice.

Vettel pipped Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc to the fastest time in FP2 by just 0.021s in a commanding display from the Scuderia, with the team looking to bounce back from a disappointing performance in Austin last time out.

The German ended up 0.134s clear of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen while new six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton was nearly three tenths off the pace in fifth, one spot behind Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.

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Vettel expects Ferrari to make further progress with its one-lap pace in time for qualifying, though he anticipates a tougher race with its rivals looking consistently faster during the long runs in FP2.

“There are a lot of small things and we need to make sure we nail those,” Vettel said when asked where Ferrari can improve.

“The car was decent today but we can improve. I’m confident of a step forward.

“In the race it will be difficult because others are quite a bit faster than us but that’s pretty much in line with the picture we’ve seen in the last couple of races so I’m not surprised.

“I think we can work on ourselves and be in a better shape for tomorrow. We do our homework from now and see where it takes us.”

Engine traces showed Ferrari held an advantage of around 0.7s to Mercedes and Red Bull on the straights at Interlagos. The performance of Ferrari’s power unit has come under scrutiny of late and Vettel said he finds the situation and allegations from rivals “sad”.

“It’s a bit sad that generally opinion swings so quickly nowadays and it doesn’t take much, it takes one and a half hours and everything is completely different and it takes one race only to make that up,” he added.

“I think the main thing for us is to focus on ourselves and hopefully give the right answer on the track.”

Leclerc will drop 10 places on the grid from wherever he qualifies after Ferrari elected to fit his car with a new engine for this weekend’s race.

The Monegasque said: “It was a positive day in general, even though the conditions were quite tricky.

“It's the same for everyone, and I think we were quite competitive, so that's good, and now we look forward to tomorrow.

“We will need to anticipate the track evolution and the setup of the car to try and be as strong as possible on Sunday when it matters.”