MELBOURNE, March 14, 2014 (AFP) - Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel expressed relief Friday after his troubled Red Bull car survived the first day of the season intact and clocked up a high number of laps.
The German ace had feared the worst heading into Sunday's Australian Grand Prix after mechanical problems in pre-season testing left Red Bull looking under-prepared for the new season.
But Vettel completed 41 laps in the second session, more than any driver and fourth quickest, while his new team-mate Daniel Ricciardo put in 38 and timed sixth.
Team chief Christian Horner said Friday's workload equated to one-third of the mileage covered in winter testing, a performance that will have eased tensions in the Red Bull garage.
"In a way it's a relief today, the fact that we were running, we didn't have any problems, the balance was good and the performance looked all right," Vettel said.
"In the end Friday times are not worth a lot, but it's better to be close to the top rather than somewhere towards the back, so I'm very happy with that.
"We will do what we can to prepare for tomorrow and Sunday, but let's see where we are then - the most important thing is that we finish."
Vettel is bidding to emulate Michael Schumacher's five consecutive world titles this season and if he wins on Sunday, he will set a new record of 10 race victories in a row.
The 26-year-old's best lap was 0.756secs behind pace-setter Lewis Hamilton but Vettel said he was looking forward to further improvements over the weekend in Melbourne.
"I'm quite surprised today, both Dan (Ricciardo) and I did a lot of laps so that's very good news, so let's see what tomorrow brings," he said.
"I learned a lot today, we're in a much happier place already."
Ricciardo, who has replaced fellow Australian Mark Webber at Red Bull, put in a total of 64 laps over the two practice sessions.
"I knew the guys were doing everything they could since testing but still, we didn't expect to do that many laps today, so I'm really happy and pleased for them," Ricciardo said.
"I think we have to be pretty positive with where we ended up today. We expected Mercedes to be quickest, but we were within a second of them today so that's a lot better than we thought."