Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel Photo: Claude Paris/AP

Sebastian Vettel made light of a difficult opening day at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Friday when he used his Ferrari’s reverse gear three times.

The German said it was the first time he could remember using it in his three years with the team.

The world championship leader had to take refuge in an escape road three times in the day's two practice sessions on his way to winding up fifth quickest.

"It's not easy to find the rhythm on this track," said the four-time world champion. "I hope I wasn't the only one going down the escape roads many times.

"I think I used reverse three times -- and I haven't used reverse once in the last three years, but it is good to do this today so we don't have to tomorrow.

"It was a fun day. We tried a couple of things and now we see the short run was not ideal. We didn't put everything together, but tomorrow is another day.

"I don't think we are missing much. It looked very close. I think Red Bull is very fast, not just for one lap, but both sessions.

"I think we are okay and it will be a question of getting everything together. I was pretty happy."