Sebastian Vettel says Ferrari struggled to improve its car during Friday’s practice running at the United States Grand Prix and has work to do to be competitive on Sunday.

Max Verstappen was fastest in FP1 while Vettel was second between the two Red Bulls, but he then faded to fourth in the second session and suffered a low-speed spin at Turn 15. After finishing 0.6s off the pace, Vettel admits the strong start did not get any better as he couldn’t find ways of improving the car during the day.

“I think we started off well, the car felt quite good, but then struggled a little bit to improve it,” Vettel said. “I think we have to do so to be more competitive tomorrow. For one lap, I think we should be there or thereabouts. In race trim, I think we have a bit more homework to do.

“We were struggling a bit, just not very fast, so that didn’t seem to give me anything extra. Let’s see where we are tomorrow, and then work out the strategy afterwards. Hopefully we get it right.”

Vettel admits the performance at Circuit of The Americas is reflective of much of Ferrari’s recent form, with the team having taken pole position at each of the last six races but failed to win the last three.

“We know that obviously we have strengths and weaknesses — in qualifying trim we can masks the weaknesses a bit, whereas in the race we struggle; we can’t. But let’s see. I’m quite confident that we can improve the car, that’s what’s most important and what we need to focus on, and then we see what we get.”

While some drivers were complaining about the bumps at COTA, Vettel says they provide an added challenge that he thinks is a good thing.

“It’s always good fun here. The track is not in the best shape with all the bumps, but it is what it is. It makes it a bit extra special and more tricky for us. It’s always fun. We need to improve ourselves a little bit.”

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