Sebastian Vettel says that he simply wasn't able to get everything right in Friday's two free practice sessions for the French Grand Prix.
“I think the car is quick but I was not able to be quick with the car today,” he said. “Sometimes you have these days.”
The four-time world champion was fifth fastest in both sessions. In the afternoon he found himself 1.150s behind the top time set by his main title rival Lewis Hamilton.
It's not the first time that Vettel has been off the pace on Friday. Several times this year, he's come back strong to dominate final practice and then challenge for pole position. Whether that means he's 'sandbagging' is another matter.
“I think it is a tricky track," he insisted. "[It's] not easy to get everything right.
"Some corners [it is] difficult to find the sweet spot," he added. "It is not yet where it should be.
“On one lap it looks like we are a little bit more behind. I didn't put great laps in. Therefore I'm not too stressed about the one lap performance," he said.
"The long runs felt pretty okay, quite consistent, although I haven’t seen much of what the other teams did," he continued. "On the long run I was able to play around a little bit more and try a few different lines
"Hopefully I can start from there tomorrow," he shrugged. "I think car-wise we can improve.
"Usually come qualifying we are able to pick up the pace, but as I said, for tonight, I need to understand what I need to do to the car and understand what we can do on top of that to make the car faster, and it should be fine.
"I think the car has more potential here, especially on the fast laps, which we need to unlock for tomorrow and then we’ll be fine," he added. “I need to have a good night's sleep, and then we'll be okay."
Vettel was heard to make several comments about the gusting winds at Le Castellet which had made for tricky conditions and contributed to several minor spins and run-offs for several drivers on Friday.
"The wind was quite an issue at the beginning of the session," Vettel confirmed. "But then it calmed down and it all started to come together. In the end I was reasonably happy with today’s run."
Vettel's team mate Kimi Raikkonen was one of the drivers to have a spin during the day's track time. But the Finn also sounded happy with how it had gone and the prospects for his weekend.
“It was a good day,” Raikkonen said, looking happy to be faced with an unfamiliar challenge at the Circuit Paul Ricard. "It’s fun to be in a new place, I enjoyed it as it’s something different.
"Obviously we cannot compare what we saw today with the past, as this is a new track for everyone. But I think that we had no particular issues.”
"In the afternoon session, the weather conditions made it quite tricky. It was not the easiest situation on track, but overall it was okay. From the tyre point of view I think it was also pretty okay."