Ferrari need to recover their testing pace, says Vettel

Mercedes

Leclerc agreed with Vettel that the team were losing time in the final sector of the lap. The things he is doing on track, which my engineer has obviously encouraged him to do, the things I was doing with settings he is now doing and he has definitely moved in the right direction there. We work well together, but it takes time to build a relationship.

"When you take one element away, whatever element you take away, initially it's not as strong as something you have built over six years".

The Finn, whose advantage stems from a fastest lap in Australia that was worth an extra point, failed to win a race previous year while Hamilton was triumphant 11 times.

"The last four races, on average, we were not quite there", added Vettel.

Five-times world champion Hamilton was second on the timesheets, 0.049 slower than Bottas, while Leclerc was third and three tenths adrift but still ahead of Vettel who lapped in one minute and 17.673 on the same soft tyres.

Lewis Hamilton topped the times for Mercedes ahead of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc in Saturday morning's third and final free practice ahead of this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix.

Formula One championship leader Valtteri Bottas has led both practice sessions for the Spanish Grand Prix, with Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton a close second and Ferrari still off the pace.

Mercedes have problems of a different kind, with the focus of the season rapidly shifting from their expected but evaporating battle with Ferrari to the one between their two drivers.

The matter of true potential has exercised minds so far this season, but the question will be put to rest at the Spanish Grand Prix on May 12, the first race of the European leg of the season.

Hamilton also made plain his response to suggestions that this season could see him facing a similar scenario to that of 2016.

"You know, I don't think that Mercedes were that far behind us in the testing here in Barcelona".

"I don't have any doubt in my ability. I like the track, I like the challenge, I like racing with the fans behind me". Everything is great within the team. "Don't expect to see what you have seen in the past".

The Swiss Cyborg appeared as the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya to make history as the first non-Formula 1 personality to present the Pirelli Pole Position Award to Valtteri Bottas.

"It's always an interesting day when you bring new parts for the vehicle to get a feel for it and see if they deliver the performance", he said.

"It's still unclear to me in Q3, the balance was very unusual so we need to check to see if the vehicle is fine but anyway, we were slower than the Mercedes today and that's it".

"It was completely different to how it was in winter testing and it seems like our cornering performance has improved".

"At the moment, we are slightly behind but we know that it's not a long way. I think normally in the race we are little bit more competitive so I hope that's the same case tomorrow".

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