Playing second fiddle to Mercedes is nothing new for Ferrari this season, but even Sebastian Vettel was shocked by how far ahead the world champions were after they dominated qualifying in Barcelona on Saturday.
Vettel was a familiar third fastest behind Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, but with Ferrari having reigned here in pre-season testing – and having brought both engine and aero upgrades to this race – the eight-tenths deficit came as a surprise.
“Coming here we did not expect [this],” said Vettel, “but also we seem to lose quite a big amount of time in the last sector. I think it's quite clear that we seem to be faster down the straights so probably carry a little bit less wing than them, but then obviously in the last sector there are no straights, and [we are] struggling a little bit to bring it together.
“It's not a very long sector, but there are quite some corners – and mostly lower speed – and that's where we seem to be losing the most time. So definitely some homework to do. We know this track very well, everybody does, but with the conditions today, etc, we were just not able to match them.”
Ferrari’s woes were compounded by a troubled session for Vettel’s team mate Charles Leclerc, who picked up floor damage over the Turn 9 kerbs during Q2. With his car seemingly compromised as a result, he failed to beat the Red Bull of Max Verstappen and ended up a disappointed fifth on the grid.