Vettel admits Melbourne will be a struggle

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Sebastian Vettel isn’t making excuses ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, as he expects Red Bull to struggle given the preseason testing woes.

“It became obvious at the first test that there was an issue as I spent more time in the pits than on the track,” Vettel explained, via a Q&A on the official Formula One website. “That is when you understand that you cannot turn a blind eye to the situation.”

There were some ruminations Vettel might be publicly unhappy with the situation, but with his resolve already being tested, the four-time defending World Champion has already taken on a mature stance.

“Just because we’ve done so exceptionally well in previous seasons it doesn’t mean that those seasons were a walk in the park,” he said. “Coming into this season we knew that there is no such thing as a guarantee on winning, so right now it is not that huge a shock for us as it might be for people on the outside.”

Finishing the race may be the ultimate goal, with anything more than that a bonus. Still, Vettel denied the opportunity to make any proclamations ahead of the weekend.

“We even don’t know the speed of the car,” he said. “In the tests we struggled with reliability so we have very little idea about the speed. This race will be about seeing where we are, so any expectation is difficult to say.”

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.