Sebastian Vettel said he struggled on the opening day of practice at the Chinese GP
German has work to do after winding up tenth fastest in practice
By Mike Wise in Shanghai
Last Updated: 12/04/13 2:33pm
The two sessions marked the first time the World Champion had returned to the cockpit since his decision to defy team orders and overtake Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber for victory in the Malaysian Grand Prix three weeks ago.
Fourth fastest behind Webber in the morning session, Vettel was seven tenths slower than the Australian after lunch and nearly a second and a half down on the pacesetting Ferrari of Felipe Massa.
"I think it was a tricky day for us," the current World Championship leader said. "I think we struggled a little bit more this afternoon. The gap to the guys at the top is a little bit bigger than I'd like. We have two or three things we need to work on and then we should be there.
"I think pace is always difficult to judge on Friday. We really need to see where we are. Surely, we were not where we wanted to be, so we need to pick up a little bit of pace for tomorrow."
Red Bull placed Vettel and Webber on different programmes during the afternoon, with the latter performing longer runs - an area where the World Champions have, relatively speaking, struggled for performance in the opening two races.
Webber seemed happy enough in that regard afterwards while Vettel - like a number of drivers - complained about the soft tyre's lack of durability.
"It looks like the qualifying tyre. I don't know if it changes the strategy for qualifying but in the race we'll see. The soft tyres didn't last today, in fact not very long at all," he shrugged.
"We'll see what we can do but in qualifying it's still the best tyre.
"It was more work about the tyres. I think the soft tyre doesn't last very long, only five or six laps. So after that it's not too funny on the soft but the medium tyre seems to hold up," added Vettel, who claimed pole position in both Melbourne and at Sepang.
With the option tyre well over a second per lap faster, Pirelli's Paul Hembery predicted a race pattern much like that seen at the Australian Grand Prix.
"It'll be like Melbourne I guess, where the top teams were forced to qualify on the softer tyre because it has such a performance advantage and within the first ten laps they'll have to pit.
"Some of the Q2 teams might opt - as we saw in Melbourne - to start on the medium tyre and try and gain some positions on the track as the first ten cars drop in.
"Some could be looking at a two-stop race, worst case three. Which is in line with what we're looking for.
"The soft is degrading more than what we'd like. It's getting a lot of graining on the front left, which is exaggerating the degradation. But it doesn't really affect the way the race should be created - a two/three-stop race."