Lewis Hamilton says Ferrari 'ahead' of Mercedes at Azerbaijan GP
But Vettel and Leclerc expecting Mercedes to close right back in for qualifying; Watch Saturday's Azerbaijan GP action live only on Sky Sports F1, with P3 at 11am and Qualifying at 2pm
By Matt Morlidge in Baku and James Galloway
Last Updated: 27/04/19 8:11am
Lewis Hamilton fears Mercedes will be unable to match Ferrari's "very quick" pace in Azerbaijan GP qualifying after the Scuderia dominated a hectic first day of practice in Baku.
However, Sebastian Vettel suggested "maybe we showed a bit more than them" and predicted a much closer Saturday after Ferrari led Mercedes by seven-tenths of a second on day one.
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Though Friday offered less running than usual due to drain cover drama in Practice One before several red flags in P2, it was Ferrari who laid down an ominous timesheet marker to end the day with Charles Leclerc on top of a team one-two - almost seven-tenths of a second ahead of Hamilton in the lead Mercedes.
And Hamilton believes his team, who have been victorious in all three of the season's opening races, may have left themselves with too much work to do ahead of a crucial Saturday.
"It's been a bit of an odd day, but I still enjoyed it," said championship leader Hamilton. "FP2 went really well, I was feeling good out there and I was more comfortable in the car than I was last year.
"However, the Ferraris are clearly very quick and it looks like they're quite a bit ahead of us, so we'll need to investigate to see where we are losing time compared to them.
"It's unlikely that we will find seven tenths overnight, but we'll do everything we can to push the car in the right direction."
Vettel, Leclerc not convinced by Friday gap
The performance pendulum has swung more wildly than normal between Mercedes and Ferrari in the opening weeks of F1 2019.
Mercedes clearly had the quickest car in Australia and again last time out in China, but Ferrari were dominating in Bahrain before unreliability and mistakes intervened to wreck their weekend.
Friday's timesheet would suggest Ferrari are set to reassert themselves in Baku, yet their drivers are anticipating anything but a runaway weekend.
Asked if the fight for pole might be an all-red affair, P2 pacesetter Leclerc insisted: "Oh no, I don't see it that way. I'm pretty sure Mercedes are going to be in the fight too so it's not going to be easy.
"We will see, but I'm pretty sure it at least will be both of us and both of the Mercedes'."
Leclerc added: "They were quite strong in the race run so I expect them to be there in the qualy run when they put everything together."
Vettel, who finished three tenths behind his team-mate in second place, agreed.
"I think it will be very close - but that's a good sign," he said. "I imagine Mercedes to be very fast, so if we can be close to them that's good.
"Maybe we showed a bit more than them today, so we'll see where are.
"Mercedes will be the ones to beat, Red Bulls also looked fast at times, so we will see. It will be close. Mostly it's about having confidence with the car."
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Ferrari upgrade, but Mercedes show long-run promise
Ferrari have been dominant in the speed traps all season and Baku, which features the longest straight on the calendar, appears to be playing into their hands - while the team have also brought an aerodynamic upgrade.
"All the numbers seem to stack up so that's a good sign. We cross-checked as much as we could," reported Vettel.
Leclerc added: "I'm quite confident with the car and quite confident with the track."
But Hamilton is still up for a "fight" at the home of street fighting.
"Our long run pace looked a little bit stronger than our short run pace, so we'll need to try and find out why," he added.
"It should be a good fight tomorrow; I'm always down for a fight and I think that's what the fans want to see, so I'm looking forward to tomorrow."
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