The best Vettel had managed in the morning had been sixth, 0.862 seconds off Hamilton's pace.
They [Ferrari] are going to be hard to beat.
"It's good to see all the times so close, but it means that we really need to bring our A game".
Three teams and their six drivers monopolize the top spots in Formula One nearly every race. You can't come in feeling off.
"We've got the team, we have the abilities and capabilities, it's just about putting our minds to it and pulling together." he continued. "What's gone wrong?" I asked the same player.
The new owners are looking to cut costs and cap spending, but the richest teams, Mercedes and Ferrari, will have to agree - or cut a deal.
With such drastic swings in momentum race-to-race, Vettel and teammate Kimi Raikkonen's hopes of breaking Mercedes' stranglehold can not be written off based on past form.
Both Vettel and Hamilton are chasing a fifth world championship, but the Englishman has easily been the most successful driver in the 14-year history of the race at the Shanghai International Circuit with five wins.
Confirming their challenge, the red cars ended Friday practice hot on Mercedes' heels.
Defending champion Hamilton will be keen to get his title assault back on track after mixed performances in the opening rubbers, and his strong performance in the first running of the weekend will provide him with the confidence that he can do just that.
Red Bull remain the big unknowns. The only bright spot early was his podium in China.
4 - Mercedes have won the last four in China, all of them from pole position.
Both races were heavily influenced by strategy, suggesting this season's championship will be fought as much on the pit wall as on the track.
"We spent a bit of time during the first session today working on the setup of the auto in order to understand it better", explained Verstappen.