Sebastian Vettel has warned Ferrari will not be fighting for Austrian Grand Prix pole position in Formula 1's opening qualifying session on Saturday.
Following a poor showing in pre-season testing, the Scuderia has been forced to completely change its direction in terms of development, leaving it without any upgrades on the SF1000 for the opening two races at the Red Bull Racing.
Although Vettel remarked Ferrari had enjoyed "a decent day" following Friday's two practice sessions at the Red Bull Ring, the fact Racing Point, McLaren and Renault fared strongly means there is a real danger Vettel and Charles Leclerc could become involved in a midfield brawl.
"In terms of speed and competitiveness, it was an interesting day," said Vettel. "I think we’ve seen that we are not at the top, that we are not the favourites.
"And then there is a lot of stuff going on behind that, and it’s very tight. So, we will see. I think tomorrow will be a big day. I don’t think we will be fighting for pole, but we must try to be the best of those behind that battle."
Vettel, who ended FP2 in fourth, 0.657secs behind Lewis Hamilton, offered a small crumb of comfort as in Friday practice there are often many variables to take into consideration.
"We didn’t take much notice of the teams around us to be honest, as it’s always difficult to predict what sort of fuel loads people are running," added Vettel. "I think we will see tomorrow because we haven’t got a clear picture today.
"It’s up to us to develop and work so that the car gets faster. We’re lacking grip and downforce compared to others. So it’s a mix of all these things.”
Leclerc, ninth quickest and almost a second down on the fastest time set by Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, offered his own damning assessment.
"The balance of the car is not that bad, we need to catch up in terms of overall performance," said Leclerc.
"The lack of pace is not down to any one thing, in particular, so we’ll try different ways for tomorrow and see if we can gain some performance.
"Qualifying will be good for the show, as there are quite a lot of teams all close together. We’ll be fighting very hard and it’s crucial we make the right choice tonight to come back with a stronger car tomorrow."
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