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.

Hamilton: Abu Dhabi ‘the last race with good-looking cars’ in F1

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Lewis Hamilton believes that this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be remembered as the last race with good-looking Formula 1 cars ahead of the introduction of the ‘Halo’ cockpit protection for next year.

Officials from the FIA and F1 Strategy Group confirmed earlier this year that the Halo would be fitted to all cars from the 2018 season in a bid to improve safety standards, with the deaths of Justin Wilson and Jules Bianchi putting head protection high on the agenda for the series’ chiefs.

Hamilton has long made his opposition to the Halo clear, believing it will ruin the look of F1 cars, and echoed his thoughts ahead of the final Halo-less race in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

“It’s the last year of looking good I think in the cars. It’s the last race where the cars will look good,” Hamilton said.

“I think next year, it’s all downhill from there in terms of how they look.

“But safety will go up at least, and maybe it could be successful in some way.”

Hamilton’s F1 title rival Sebastian Vettel was less bothered about the change, believing the field will adjust and move on.

“The cars will look different next year. Everything I’ve seen so far looks different, but on the other hand it is something we all get used to,” Vettel said.

“But no doubt the cars look better now, but we’ll get used to it, and we’ll work on the aesthetics so it can be better. It is less of a big deal.”

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo shared Vettel’s view, saying: “I don’t think it’s gonna be as dramatic as most people make it out to be.”