The Ferrari vs. Mercedes rivalry has always been an intense battle between the two storied teams in the Formula One paddock. After a few down years for the Scuderia camp, they’ve since rebounded in 2017 and are challenging their Mercedes counterparts again. The rivalry started to heat up again this weekend in Russia, as the Ferrari drivers are blaming the Mercedes team of sandbagging in the two practice sessions on Friday from the Sochi circuit.
Vettel, who paced the second practice session and was fifth in session No. 1, said that the Mercedes laps were “artificial” and when asked if he meant that they were sandbagging, the German said, “yes.”
“I think they will be fine, “Vettel continued. “It’s a circuit that suits them so they will be strong tomorrow. I think last year people expected Williams to be fastest after Friday, if I remember right, and it turned out Mercedes was the fastest. That’s how sometimes you can be misled and I think there’s a lot of things we can play within the car: fuel loads, engine modes…
“This looks like a Mercedes track. For sure they didn’t show everything today and they didn’t get a lap together, so the gap you see it’s artificial.”
Vettel’s teammate Kimi Raikkonen was fastest in the first session and second in the next practice to give Ferrari, 1-5 and 1-2 in the two sessions today. Compare that to Mercedes being 2-3 in session No. 1 and 3-4 in session No. 2, it appears that Ferrari is either just that much better, or maybe Mercedes is sandbagging after all.
Mercedes drivers, have won all three races, won all three poles and have led every single lap in Sochi. But, Ferrari’s have closed the gap this season and Mercedes drivers point that say and say Ferrari’s are indeed better than them right now and that they have no reason to sandbag.
“We never sandbag,” Hamilton said to the international media after being fourth fastest in the second practice on Friday. “There’s no benefit to sandbagging, ever. I think Ferrari has done in the past but there is zero benefit for us to do so, we’re trying to get the car to the optimum balance-wise and today’s generally been a tricky day.
“I don’t know why he would suggest that, it’s just Sebastian (Vettel) trying to blow smoke our way.
“Really, those guys are just very quick.”
Hamilton, says the biggest difference between the two right now are in the tires as Mercedes is struggling with setups to match the tires configurations.
“If we get our tires working properly I think we can be closer,” he said of the gap to Ferrari in Russia. “There’s no difference compared to the previous races, the gap is still very, very close between us.”
Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas talked to the media and echoed Hamilton’s comments.
“We have work to do, and Ferrari was stronger today than us”, Bottas said. “I hope we were sandbagging,” he joked. “If we are on top of them tomorrow, we’ve done a very good job.”