MARINA BAY, Singapore — Sebastian Vettel believes Lewis Hamilton’s pole position lap at the Singapore Grand Prix would have been beatable had he enjoyed a smoother qualifying session.
After dominating the final practice session on Saturday afternoon, Vettel dropped to third in the evening’s qualifying session with a lap time 0.6s off Hamilton and 0.294s off Max Verstappen in second.
The result is significant for the 2018 title race as Vettel was considered to be the favourite in Singapore and was hoping to reduce Hamilton’s 30-point lead in the championship. It was not clear where Ferrari lost so much performance to Mercedes between final practice and qualifying, but Vettel said his out-laps, which were much faster than Hamilton’s, did not prepare his tyres as well as he had hoped.
“For us the qualifying didn’t go the way I think we planned it to be, not just in terms of result — obviously we were hoping for more than third on the grid — but I think that’s one thing,” he said. “I think the gap is quite big. I think Lewis had a really good lap, so congrats to him for the lap, I’m sure it was a good one — but I don’t think it was unbeatable.
“I don’t think there’s much point in going into detail. For sure, here and there we could’ve done better, maybe with preparing the lap, the qualifying, but in the end I had the laps and obviously they were not strong enough and good enough to be near pole.”
Vettel’s Q2 session did not go as smoothly as planned after Ferrari attempted to pass through the session on the ultra-soft tyre so that he would gain an advantage by starting on a harder compound compared to the rest of the top ten. However, his time wasn’t fast enough on the ultra-softs, forcing him to switch to the hyper-soft for his second run to ensure a place in Q3.
“Obviously it was clear what we tried to do — it didn’t work — but I think overall qualifying for us today wasn’t as smooth as it should’ve been,” he said. “It was difficult to get a rhythm, difficult to get a feel for the car, and in the end the gap is quite big.
“I’m not worried about the gap, because I don’t think that shows how strong we are, but it’s just disappointing obviously today that we didn’t get the maximum out of our package.”
Asked if he would also struggle compared to Mercedes in the race, Vettel added: “The race is a different story, so I think by tomorrow things will look different, but for sure not happy with how the day went. I think qualifying for us wasn’t as smooth as it should’ve been, so I think other people obviously did better than us and that’s why we’re third.”