Vettel: Ferrari can still challenge Merc

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Sebastian Vettel believes Ferrari can make the necessary improvements needed to challenge Formula One rivals Mercedes for victory at the Italian Grand Prix, despite being bested on Friday.

The championship leader ended the day third quickest in both of Friday’s 90 minute practice sessions, as Mercedes continued its run of topping every single practice at Monza since the V6 hybrid turbo era began in 2014. While Mercedes was expected to have the upper hand at the power-hungry circuit, Vettel is confident Ferrari can still fight for its first win on home soil since 2010.

“We know that they are very strong around here in the past couple of years as it is a track which is power circuit where we know they have had their strengths in the past couple of years,” Vettel explained. “Today is not the best day to read. I think we’ve done good steps today but I haven’t seen much [comparisons] yet. We will focus on ourselves and aim to improve the car here and there, there is a little bit still missing.

“I know we have to improve to go with them. They are very quick. They were quick whenever they went out, which is what we expected. But we looked after ourselves, and we’ll see what we can do tomorrow. We can improve the car and if we sort a couple of things out, we should be in good shape.”

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Having lagged behind Mercedes by a full second in opening practice, Vettel closed to within just 0.140s of Valtteri Bottas’ session-leading time in FP2.

When asked if he feels Mercedes is hiding its true pace, Vettel replied: “I don’t know. Friday you always do what you think is best. Sometimes you show more or sometimes you show less. We are OK, there are a couple of things we need to do better, car balance, stability, braking, which is important round here to get the confidence. Because you are low downforce you need to have the confidence to just throw the car there. We are not yet where I think we can be but I think we should be a bit better tomorrow.

Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who finished fourth in both sessions, was left unhappy with his day’s work after struggling with balance and set-up on his side of the garage.

“I had quite a difficult feeling and it was not the easiest car to drive today,” he said. “I’m sure when we do the normal work and improve the things it will become an easier car to drive and we will be able to improve quite a bit. Where it’s going to take us tomorrow, I don’t know.

“It just didn’t feel easy to put the car where you wanted it and drive hard, so we have some work to be done for tomorrow and if we get it more like we want it, then it should be better and go a little bit faster.” – RPM