Sebastian Vettel & Mark Webber are aware Lotus, Ferrari big threats to Red Bull
But World Champion feels team need to improve short-run pace
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 19/04/13 5:12pm
As was the case in China last week, and is developing into an early-season trend, the three race-winning teams of the year so far traded fastest times throughout the opening day with only Force India's Paul di Resta a surprise interloper in the top five.
After being outpaced by Ferrari in the morning, Red Bull turned the tables on their Maranello rivals in the afternoon before in turn being edged out by Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen, many pundits' pre-weekend tip for victory on Sunday.
Sebastian Vettel, who was outpaced by team-mate Mark Webber in the later session, admits there is little to choose between the leading trio - but suggested he wasn't yet happy with Red Bull's low-fuel runs.
"It's pretty close. If you look at the opposition then Ferrari and Lotus were strong today and I think it will be close in qualifying," the world champion said.
"It's important to work with the tyres around the track. I wasn't so happy with my short runs today - but that's why we have the Friday practice sessions I guess; I was happier with the longer runs. The tyres still seem to be the dominating factor. The car seems quick, so we have to make sure we use that and then we should be on the right page."
Webber finished a mere 0.030s adrift of Raikkonen at the end of the day and agreed with Vettel's assessment of the front-running formbook - although he also named Mercedes as a threat despite the Brackley team's own pessimism.
The Australian carries a three-place grid penalty into Saturday's running after crashing into Jean-Eric Vergne in Shanghai, and while acknowledging grid position is no longer the be-all-and-end-all in terms of race chances, admitted he still wanted to start the race as high up as possible.
"I would have liked to have got some more running in P2, but I still think we learned what we expected today," the Australian added.
"Saturdays are perhaps becoming less important overall than they used to be, but they're still important in terms of traffic. You don't want to be in too much traffic on Sunday, as the tyres don't like being disturbed and wear more which will shorten your first stint - so you still need to be in a good position.
"We still have areas to improve on the car. Lotus and Ferrari look strong and Mercedes is there too."