Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc admit they are “more confident” of beating Mercedes at the Russian GP after Ferrari’s F1 2019 breakthrough – but insist that the championship leaders are still the team to beat.
Although Ferrari endured a disappointing first half of the season, they have won three in a row since August’s summer break and the last of those victories – at a twisty Singapore which would typically suit their rivals – was aided by an impressive new upgrade and hinted that the Scuderia, who had previously struggled with corners, could now challenge at every circuit.
“Certainly Singapore gave us a lot of confidence, it was not expected to be that strong,” Vettel, who ended his year-long wait for a victory last week, told reporters in Russia.
“The new parts we had worked really well and seemed to give us an edge so hopefully we can come here and be equally strong in terms of fighting for pole and the race as well.”
Their next test, live on Sky Sports F1, comes at the Sochi Autodrom which, with one of the longest straights on the calendar, should help Ferrari’s engine more than Singapore.
Mercedes, however, are unbeaten in Russia and have not gone four races without an F1 victory since 2013 – and Ferrari have stressed that Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas are the favourites this weekend.
“Overall it is definitely heading in the right direction but it would be wrong to think that we’ve won on two different types of tracks, we can win everywhere,” Vettel stated.
“I think it’s still Mercedes that has been in a position to win every race in a way this year. So they’re the ones to beat, they’re the benchmark.”
When’s the Russian GP on Sky?
All the key TV times to watch the entire Russian GP weekend from Sochi live on Sky Sports F1.
Leclerc added: “We have been very surprised in Singapore with how quick we were, whether it will be the same story here or not I don’t know.
“Definitely if we wouldn’t have had the Singapore weekend we would not have arrived here thinking we were the favourites.
“Mercedes have been always very quick and they have won all years here, so it’s going to be very difficult to beat them. But seeing the performance in Singapore we are a bit more confident, so let’s see if we can challenge them.”
Sky F1’s live Russian GP schedule
Friday, September 277.25am: F2 Practice8.45am: Russian GP Practice One build-up (Simulcast on Sky Sports Main Event)9am: Russian GP Practice One (Simulcast on Sky Sports Main Event)10.55am: F3 Qualifying12.45pm: Russian GP Practice Two build-up (Simulcast on Sky Sports Main Event)1pm: Russian GP Practice Two (Simulcast on Sky Sports Main Event)2.55pm: F2 Qualifying3.30pm: The Story So Far
Saturday, September 288.05pm: F3 Race One9.45am: Russian GP Practice Three build-up10am: Russian GP Practice Three11.10am: #AskCrofty with Jenson Button12pm: Russian GP Qualifying build-up1pm: RUSSIAN GP QUALIFYING2.35pm: F2 Race One3.45pm: The F1 Show