Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo think Mercedes' pace will improve in China
"Maybe they didn't run full beans today," World Champion says after more muted showing from frontrunning Silver Arrows in Shanghai Friday practice
By Mike Wise and James Galloway in Shanghai
Last Updated: 18/04/14 11:14am
Lewis Hamilton led the way in P2 but the gap to the second-placed Ferrari of Fernando Alonso - just over a tenth of the second - suggested that Mercedes, who have yet to be beaten in 2014, are not as dominant at the Shanghai International Circuit as elsewhere.
Hamilton's team-mate Nico Rosberg was third fastest but with the Red Bull pair next up, both Vettel and Ricciardo reckoned that the Silver Arrows might sharpen their pace as the weekend progresses.
"Maybe they didn't run full beans today," said the World Champion, who was fifth fastest behind Ricciardo. "It's difficult to say, I think they are still the favourites, they are 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 on which tyres you have on the car, what time you're going out, what fuel.
"Nevertheless for us I think it was a good day, but [we're] not yet on the level of the top cars," Vettel added.
Ricciardo agreed with his team-mate, saying: "We have to see where they are tomorrow; the gap seems a bit too close for now. I mean, I'd like to say we've caught up but I think they've got a bit more in there and we'll see what they've got tomorrow."
Mercedes have a power advantage compared to the Renault-powered Red Bulls, although Hamilton complained of a handling problem on Friday while both he and Rosberg also suffered with tyre wear.
With teams looking at either two or three stops in Sunday's race, Ricciardo is optimistic Red Bull can profit although Vettel reckons any tyre problems might ease if rain - which forecast for qualifying - stays away and so doesn't wash rubber from the track.
"The team said we did all right in our long run and we probably got the most laps out of the option compared to the others from what I understand. So that's positive," the Australian added.
"But it's only positive if you can do one less stop in the race, so we'll see."
Vettel said: "I think it will get better as the weekend goes on, but it depends which weather we have tomorrow and Sunday.
"If it's dry both days then the circuit will ramp up; if it's wet obviously it resets every time."