Vettel: Ferrari damaging tyres more than its rivals

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari SF71H. 05.10.2018.
© XPB 

Sebastian Vettel says that Ferrari is struggling with tyre degradation again this weekend, as he trailed Lewis Hamilton by almost a second at the end of Friday's free practice session in Suzuka.

The team's pre-race choice of tyre allocation for the Japanese Grand Prix mean it is already locked into an aggressive strategy using the supersoft tyres.

But on Friday, both Vettel and his team mate Kimi Raikkonen were suffering from blistering on their longer runs on the compound, while also unable to match Mercedes for speed.

“Today I think we were probably both of us sliding a bit too much," Vettel said after the end of practice. "And therefore damaging the tyres a bit more than others."

Despite finishing the day 0.833s slower than Hamilton - even further off the Silver Arrows pace than last weekend in Sochi - Vettel still felt that overall it had been a good start to the weekend.

"I think overall it has been okay," he insisted. “It has been a clean Friday. No interruptions, no issue with the car or anything."

Vettel did appear irked with the team's strategy at one point in Free Practice 2 when he said told the pit wall: "Taking the last lap there was nonsense, we should have saved the mileage."

However, he was putting a positive spin on how the day had gone as a whole.

“We knew what we were doing, I don’t think we tried something different to other Fridays," he added. "We could focus on our work, and now we try to obviously squeeze out everything that is left in the car for tomorrow."

But whether Ferrari can find the sort of improvement to bring them within striking range of Mercedes in qualifying and the race itself is another matter.

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari. 05.10.2018.

"We know what the car can do," he stated. “We need to focus on that and try to get everything out to put us in the best possible position.

“You can always do something. The question is whether it works.

"If we can grasp pole tomorrow, that is great," he said. "If not, we need to be there just right behind and then see what happens.”

But Vettel is wary about pushing too hard and throwing his title chances away with an accident he can ill-afford, currently 50 points behind Hamilton in the championship with only five races remaining.

“Obviously you don’t want to commit suicide," he cautioned. "If we attack, we still try to be reasonable. It is a long race.”

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