MELBOURNE, Australia -- Sebastian Vettel seemed genuinely stunned by the gap to Mercedes in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix. As a veteran of 11 seasons he knows as well as anyone not to read too much into testing, but so convincing was Ferrari's advantage in Barcelona two weeks ago that he -- and the rest of the paddock -- had become accustomed to the idea of the red cars leading from the front. Yet in qualifying the margin was 0.704s in Mercedes' favour.
"I'm certainly surprised, I think everybody is, probably even themselves," Vettel said. "For sure there's some homework for us to do and to understand. I still think we have a great car, but we should be better than this."
So why wasn't it the Ferrari better on Saturday? The only logical explanation is also the simplest one. Albert Park is a very different track to the Circuit de Barcelona where testing took place and, as a result of being on the other side of the world, the weather was much warmer.
"We have something like 10, 15 degrees more ambient [temperature] on the track, so overall different conditions," he added. "But the car felt really good at testing, and probably around here, so far this weekend, it didn't feel as good yet.
"I think it's a little bit of everything [that's missing]. I don't think straight line is a problem, I think we are quite competitive on the straights, but I think we are losing in the corners. There are 16 corners around here, and I think it's fairly evenly spread, so by the looks of it so far, it was more the medium and lower speed stuff rather than the high-speed stuff, which speaks for a strong car in general."
Feeling uncomfortable in the car in medium and low-speed corners is not nice at Albert Park. The majority of the corners are medium or low-speed and the margin for error beyond the rumble strips is incredibly small.
A mistake on the exit of the high-speed Turn 12 in Q2 will also have done nothing for Vettel's confidence, and that feeling of the front and rear of the car not working in unison can add several tenths of a second to a lap time at Albert Park.
"I haven't got the balance yet that maybe I'd like to have, especially in lower speed corners, especially the confidence and trust that around here make a big difference because it's a bumpy track.
"It's fairly evenly spread around the lap, but more towards the lower speed corners and I would say it easier to lose time there. When the gap is so big, we must lose time in more than one place, for sure."
Instability in a car can sometimes be neutralised by a heavier fuel load in the race, so Vettel is now pinning his hopes on a more positive performance on Sunday.