Full Thursday 2014 Australian Grand Prix FIA Press Conference

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Four-time defending World Champion Sebastian Vettel, fell World Champions Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, new Red Bull recruit Daniel Ricciardo, new Williams signing Felipe Massa and McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen participated in Thursday’s press conference.

The full transcript can be found here, via the official Formula One website.

Vettel, whose Red Bull team has had a rough time of it in preseason testing, admitted as such during the press conference without mincing any words.

“It’s obviously a tough step for all the teams, all the drivers, a lot of new things to get used to,” Vettel said. “We know that obviously we’re not in the best shape yet. There are a lot of things we need to solve.”

Hamilton said the new cars aren’t as fun to drive – yet – but they’re just coming into their own.

“Now we’re in a new phase and it’s just something that just takes some time to get used to,” said the Mercedes driver. “The sound, for example, is not as impressive as what we had in the past but once you get all the cars on the track, on the grid, I’m pretty sure it will be impressive for the fans still.”

Alonso admits the same.

“The car itself and the technology that Formula One brought this year are a little bit complex to everyone. We are learning and we are developing the car every day that we work on it,” said the two-time World Champion.

Massa and Ricciardo still look forward to driving with their new teams.

“So many new people arriving – including me. But, I’m pretty motivated,” Massa said. “For sure we can be there. I don’t know how competitive we’re going to be compared to the other teams.”

Adds Ricciardo of his Red Bull shot, “I think for now just focus on what I’ve done the last few years and keep doing what I’ve been doing to get to this point – and then assess it from there and see how it’s going.”

Rookie Magnussen doesn’t underestimate the challenge as he prepares for his first Grand Prix.

“It’s a big job, a big challenge but I think I’m pretty much as ready as you can be these days,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of work over the winter but I’m not underestimating the challenge that I’m facing. It’s a big challenge but I’m looking forward to it.”

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.