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Vettel plays down Mercedes speculation

Ferrari's Formula 1 championship leader Sebastian Vettel made light of media speculation on Thursday that he might move to rivals Mercedes in 2018.

"I didn't know (about the rumours)," the German said ahead of tomorrow's Spanish Grand Prix.

"Is it coming from Italy? Have you asked the Italians? They seem to know more than I do."

The 29-year-old said his focus was on this season, but the absence of an outright denial may do little to dampen the rumours.

Vettel, as well as teammate Kimi Raikkonen, are out of contract at the end of the season while Mercedes hired Valtteri Bottas at short notice to replace champion Nico Rosberg after his shock retirement.

Mercedes have been the dominant team in Formula 1 for the past three seasons and lead the constructors' standings after four of this year's 20 races.

Vettel, a four-time world champion, is 13 points clear of Mercedes' triple title winner Lewis Hamilton after the German won in Australia and Bahrain.

Hamilton won in China and Bottas in Russia, his first victory in Formula 1.

Hamilton set the pace again in yesterday afternoon's second free practice for the Spanish Grand Prix.

The Briton proved again that he has bounced back from the puzzling loss of form that left him struggling to fourth in last month's Russian Grand Prix.

Hamilton was fastest in the morning's opening session and topped the second with a best lap of one minute and 20.802 seconds, ahead of teammate Bottas by 0.090sec.

Raikkonen was third for Ferrari, three-tenths off the pace, ahead of Vettel. Last year's winner, Dutch teenager Max Verstappen of Red Bull, was fifth fastest ahead of teammate Daniel Ricciardo. - WIRE SERVICES

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