Sebastian Vettel remains uncertain about Ferrari’s pace in comparison to front-runners Mercedes in Malaysia despite the team appearing to be far closer in practice than it was two weeks ago at the Australian Grand Prix.
Ferrari finished within four-tenths of a second of Mercedes at the top of the timesheets in both practice sessions at the Sepang International Circuit on Friday, suggesting that the team could pose a stiffer challenge to the German team this weekend.
However, Vettel remains unsure about his own pace given the tricky conditions and the problems faced by Mercedes in practice.
“I think it’s difficult to compare where we are compared to Mercedes because they didn’t have a clean day,” Vettel said. “The most important thing now is to look after ourselves.
“I think everyone is struggling. Everyone is sliding a lot. It’s hot tomorrow and Sunday should be a bit cooler because we’re running a bit later. But for now we can be satisfied.”
Vettel finished the second practice session down in seventh place after failing to post a quick time on the medium compound tire. After recording the quickest first sector time of any driver, his flying lap was cut short due to a red flag following Roberto Merhi’s spin, preventing him from a higher finish.
“It’s nice to be quickest but we couldn’t finish the lap when the red flag came out,” Vettel said. “Then we tried again and I was trying a bit hard so we don’t know exactly where we could have been with the medium tire, but all in all it was okay.”
Ferrari will be hoping to make some inroads at the front this weekend, but its main focus will lie with Williams in the battle to be the ‘best of the rest’ behind Mercedes after a close fight in Australia two weeks ago.
Porsche will skip Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race with its two GTLM cars at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course after three positive COVID-19 tests were confirmed during the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
That resulted in Porsche choosing to pull out of the Nurburgring 24 Hour endurance race in Germany, electing to avoid sending any team members as a precautionary measure.
Porsche Motorsport announced Tuesday that its COVID-19 decision also would apply at Mid-Ohio to its No. 911 and No. 12 teams.
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Three of Porsche’s four IMSA GTLM drivers — Laurens Vanthoor, Frederic Makowiecki and Nick Tandy — also were racing in Le Mans. The trio has remained isolated in Europe and won’t be allowed to travel.
“Based on yesterday’s decision that no employee or racing driver of our Le Mans team will participate in the Nürburgring 24 Hours, we have today decided that this ruling will also apply to the upcoming IWSC race in Mid-Ohio,” Fritz Enzinger, vice president for Porsche Motorsport, said in a release. “This means that Laurens, Nick and Fred will not be traveling to the USA.
“This is very regrettable, but we would like to emphasize that in this case as well the health of all those concerned is the prime focus of the decisions we have taken.”
The decision also affects Earl Bamber, who teamed with Vanthoor to win the GTLM championship last year in the No. 912.
Porsche said its GTLM Porsche 911 RSR-19 entries will return for the Oct. 10 race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.
That will reduce the GTLM class to four cars — two Corvettes and two BMWs — this weekend at Mid-Ohio, in what could be somewhat of a 2021 preview. Porsche Motorsport announced earlier this year that it will leave IMSA after the 2020 season because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.