Vettel suspects Mercedes of sandbagging during practice

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Sebastian Vettel believes that there is significant room for improvement for Red Bull in China despite a solid display during practice at the Shanghai International Circuit today.

The German driver finished the first session on Friday morning in ninth place, but improved to finish fifth in FP2 just behind teammate Daniel Ricciardo. Unlike nearest rivals Mercedes and Ferrari, the team did not encounter any problems during practice, but Vettel still is not happy with his pace.

“We didn’t have any major issues today, so it was good in terms of testing,” he said. “There’s a lot for us to do, for me especially as I’m not yet where I want to be, but we made some progress.”

Vettel also suspects that Mercedes were sandbagging their pace during practice, as the great difference between the Silver Arrows and the rest of the field that we saw in Bahrain appears to have shrunk.

“Maybe they didn’t run full beans today,” he said to the media in China. “They are still the favorites and still quite far away.

“I was behind the Mercedes on the long run and it looked like they could do what they want. But it depends what tires you have on the car and what time you go out. Nevertheless, for us, it was a good day, but we are not yet on the level of the Mercedes.”

Earlier this week, the defending Formula 1 world champion set his sights on a top five finish in China, but his long run pace during the second practice session on Friday suggests that he could be in the running for a podium finish.

Dakar Rally video highlights from the concluding Stage 14

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EDITOR’S NOTE: NBCSN will air additional Dakar Rally highlights on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. ET and Monday at 7 p.m. ET.

The 40th Dakar Rally is now history.

Nearly 550 competitors began the early 5,600-mile long race 15 days ago and concluded Saturday.

As we’ve done throughout the Rally, here are some key video highlights from NBCSN’s coverage of the Rally:

TRUCKS

CARS

QUADS

 

MOTORCYCLES