Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany goes through turn 2 during the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. Photo: Rick Rycroft/AP Photo

MELBOURNE  Ferrari blamed their lack of a competitive edge at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix  on Sunday on balance issues, with Sebastian Vettel complaining the car's performance around corners was not good enough.

The powerhouse Italian team was the standout performer in pre-season testing in Barcelona, but they have been consistently off the Mercedes' pace in Melbourne.

Four-time world champion Vettel could only manage fourth at Albert Park, trailing a gaping 57.1 seconds behind winner Valtteri Bottas. 

His Ferrari partner Charles Leclerc was fifth.

"In Barcelona we were very happy with the car right from day one. I think the balance was right, the car was responding to what I was asking it to do. I had a lot of confidence," said Vettel.

"I think all weekend I didn't get that confidence I had in Barcelona. It (the car) wasn't doing what I was asking. 

"I think there were glimpses here and there that were really strong. The performance in some corners was really good, but in the majority it wasn't and that's why we were slower than other people and lost out today."

Team principal Mattia Binotto said it wasn't clear exactly what the problem was, but it was related to the balance setup.

"Since Friday FP1 (free practice one) we have not found the right balance, we struggled at times," he said.

"Do we understand that yet, probably not. It's something we need to go back and analyse and try to assess what happened.

"One thing we are certain of is that this weekend is not the real potential of our car. The potential is certainly bigger."

Mercedes have been dominant in Formula One in recent years, winning the drivers' and constructors' titles five years in a row, and Ferrari  and Vettel are desperate to catch up.

"Clearly we're missing something right now, but we don't have an answer," said the German. 

"We need to get back, have a good look and I'm sure we'll find something because we know that the car is better than what we have seen today."

AFP