Sebastian Vettel says suggestions that Mercedes might be struggling coming into the 2019 Formula 1 season were outed as "bullshit" after the Silver Arrows ended practice for the Australian Grand Prix eight tenths of a second quicker than any other team.
Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheets in both FP1 and FP2 in Melbourne, the second session seeing Valtteri Bottas trail him by just 0.048 seconds, but third-placed Max Verstappen exactly eight tenths down.
Both Hamilton and Toto Wolff estimated that Ferrari might be half a second clear after pre-season testing and while Vettel clearly did not show his full hand, going just a tenth quicker than old teammate Kimi Raikkonen in the Alfa Romeo, he says reports of Mercedes' demise were grossly premature.
"I think they [Mercedes] looked really quick," Vettel said. "I don't know if it was just us struggling a bit, but as a matter of fact they were in a league of their own.
"What was all that bullshit about with them being out of shape and so on? I didn't understand that to be honest. So it was a bit of a surprise.
"Maybe everyone else was struggling and then we can turn it around, but they looked very strong and much stronger than they claimed before the weekend."
With Vettel fifth and Charles Leclerc ninth-fastest, Ferrari did not appear to be as strong as expected, although they do not typically hit their stride on Fridays.
"It was a tricky day for us and probably a tricky day for everyone," said Vettel.
"I think for us we are not where we would like to be – not in terms of lap time but in terms of car feel and handling.
"We didn't really get into the groove and rhythm and that's quite important around here.
"So if we can get that confidence and that groove back, there is a lot of lap time in that around here."