Sebastian Vettel said his Ferrari has yet to give him the same feeling in the car that he had in pre-season testing despite dominating Friday practice at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Ferrari struggled two weeks ago in Australia but hit the ground running in Bahrain, with Charles Leclerc fastest in FP1 — a second clear of Mercedes — and Vettel then topping the times in FP2. The gap in the second session was 0.6s as Ferrari unusually ran two new sets of soft tires, but Vettel says the gap is not representative of how the car feels.

“Well, we hoped to be in better shape and much closer than Melbourne,” Vettel said. “Obviously today the result was good but we were probably on a different strategy to other people so I wouldn’t put too much attention on that.

“I think for tomorrow we still need to improve — especially as Mercedes looks very fast.

“We certainly tried everything in [Melbourne], but I think coming here we knew that some things weren’t exactly right in Australia. We started off in a better place, but still I feel there is more potential in the car that we have to unleash for tomorrow.”

Comparing the car he has in Bahrain to the one in Melbourne, Vettel said the key difference on Friday was in the confidence he had with the rear end.

“Less bumpy, but that comes with the track. And I think more trust in the rear, which was let’s say our Achilles heel in Australia.

“Not yet [back to the Barcelona feeling] but certainly better today. Obviously the track’s different, but I think we still need to find something. I’m not entirely happy with today; I just don’t have the feeling yet that I want to have.”

Different engine modes not normally used in practice account for the Ferraris’ straight line speed in Bahrain, explained Binotto. Image by Mauger/LAT

Team principal Mattia Binotto backed up Vettel’s comments when he explained Ferrari’s Friday pace, putting it down to engine modes that the team wouldn’t usually use in practice.

“Today, we focused on ourselves, on our programs, on the dedication we had after Australia, trying to react and address the issues we had,” Binotto said. “I think the delta you see here is not too significant. It’s quite obvious — you may see the GPS data, the speed [we had] on the straights. We were certainly pushing different engine modes compared to what the others were pushing.

We’re expecting a tough battle tomorrow –the others will be very strong — but I think more important is staying focused on ourselves.

“We improved our situation after Australia. This is quite a different track, but let’s say we didn’t have today the problem we suffered in the Australia, thanks to the track and thanks to the modifications we made.”