"We have to keep working on the balance of the vehicle, the performance, to get more lap time out of it".
It was, Vettel admitted, "a big relief", and it was appropriate it came on a track that has had a special connection with Ferrari ever since the legendary Gilles Villeneuve scored his maiden victory on his home track's debut on the calendar back in 1978.
Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes was the fastest driver in the first of two practice sessions on a dry and sunny Friday morning at the Canadian Grand Prix.
But that statistic was always a slightly misleading one, and although this was a turnaround in form, it was not entirely unexpected.
Rookie Norris, 19, took umbrage with his compatriot's remarks on the eve of Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix, believing them to be a jibe directed at him, and his fellow British novice George Russell, 21.
Mercedes has won all six races so far this season.
And - more good news, if not for F1, then for the critter - it survived.
Until this weekend, a pattern had looked like it might be emerging at Ferrari.
Charles Leclerc came out on top with a time of one minute, 12.177 seconds, edging teammate Sebastian Vettel by 0.074 seconds.
Not in Canada, though. With 25 points awarded for a win, that represents the equivalent of more than two races in Hamilton's pocket over his closest rival on the red team.
"I don't know why he would say it now, and not when he first started", Norris said.
This is Vettel all over. If you get it right, it feels great. This was one of those days.
"I'm not surprised", said Hamilton of Ferrari's performance. Anything can happen tomorrow and we'll race to find out, as simple as that.More news: 1st LD Writethru: Japan's Abe to visit Iran amid tensions with US
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As Vettel hinted, Ferrari's issue recently has been delivering when they should.
Vettel will now be bidding to convert that much-needed pole into a much-required win for both him and his Ferrari team following what has been an underwhelming start to the new campaign for the Scuderia.
"It's too bad for the team", said Stroll, who is 16th in the drivers' standings with four points. "The right message for the guys".
"The vehicle felt better and better through qualifying".
"We are strong on the long run pace and hopefully it will be the same tomorrow and we can have a good run".
"We are definitely in the fight", said Stroll of the competitive midfield. We are flat out and the most important thing is we keep pushing. But this year Ferrari have had the quickest vehicle in a straight line, even if their advantage hasn't been as pronounced during the races.
"I think this is fantastic for the sport", said Hamilton. "They are so quick on the straights".
The drivers were back on the track for a second practice run later Friday. I'm still full of adrenaline - I'm really happy, I really enjoyed it. "I gave it absolutely my all".
"We had P1 for a second [but] we knew that they were quick", he acknowledged.
He has a bit of added jeopardy, though, over his engine. "Formula One shouldn't be like that".
"Seb did a stunning lap and he deserved to be on pole", said Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff.
What happened to Leclerc and Bottas?.
Qualifying is at 10pm UAE time on Saturday, with the race due to start at 10.10pm. I hope it will be close from now on throughout the season. He deserves it. For my part, I have to improve the way in which I anticipate the track evolution, so that I can set up the auto to be on point for Q3.
Racing Point driver Sergio Perez didn't improve by enough as he took the chequered flag in Q1 to escape the drop zone.