As the qualifying session of the Russian GP concluded, it was clear that Mercedes had the advantage. Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas swept the floor with the Ferrari duo and Sebastian Vettel had no answer.
But, Vettel hopes he can turn the tables on Bottas to win the Russian Grand Prix. This was despite Ferrari being comprehensively outperformed by Mercedes in qualifying. Bottas led a front-row lockout for the Silver Arrows ahead of Lewis Hamilton, with Vettel half a second adrift in third.
Vettel can take some comfort from last year’s race at the Sochi Autodrom, however, when he qualified on pole, only for Bottas to win from third on the grid, aided by a tow on the long run down to turn two – the first meaningful corner of the lap.
Although Ferrari suffered on Saturday, track position is king at Sochi, where overtaking can be difficult, so Vettel is not giving up so easily as he looks to claw back Hamilton’s 40-point lead in the standings.
“I just spoke to Valtteri and reminded him what happened last year, so maybe we can turn it around,” Vettel said.
“It would be nice, it depends on the start, the initial jump, and then you know where you are and we’ll see what we can do for the first corner.
“But after that it’s a long race, so tricky one but for sure if there’s a gap we’ll go for it.”
Vettel added: “It was important to get as close as possible to them and we’ll see but it’s true they’ve been very quick so we’ll see tomorrow.
“It is a long race, we’ve seen the tyres are very important.
“Today I think it should have been a bit closer, the gap, but [we had] not enough to be a threat.
“I had a tiny mistake in the last sector but I knew I had to improve by half a second.
“I had to try, it didn’t work, but I’m quite happy. The car felt alright, so that makes me positive for Sunday.”
The question is, can Ferrari recover from this disappointing display and challenge Mercedes tomorrow?