Sebastian Vettel defends Ferrari's qualifying tyre gamble

SUZUKA, Japan — Sebastian Vettel has refused to criticise Ferrari for its tyre gamble in qualifying at the Japanese Grand Prix, saying it had the potential to create a “miracle” result for the team.

Vettel qualified ninth at Suzuka after he was sent out on the wrong type of tyres at the start of the final qualifying session. While the rest of the field went out on the dry track on slick tyres, Ferrari believed rain was about to hit the circuit and wanted its drivers to be equipped with intermediates to deal with it.

However, the rain ultimately held off until later in the session meaning Vettel had to drive back to the pits for slicks only for it to start raining halfway round his quick lap. By that time the rest of the top ten had clocked times on slick tyres in the dry, putting the pressure on Vettel who then made a mistake at Spoon corner.

“If it starts to rain five, six seven minutes earlier, we did a miracle because we’re the only clever ones and if it’s like that obviously we’re the only ones looking stupid,” he said. “Therefore, I defend the decision — it’s our decision as a team. Obviously it wasn’t wet enough to start with and then the rain didn’t come, it came later.

“I think we expected that there was more rain coming and obviously it didn’t. So then it was the wrong decision, but when the conditions are like this then obviously you either get it right or you get it wrong. I’m not blaming anybody.”

Asked who made the decision, he said: “Does it matter? What does it matter? It was our call.”

It’s the latest in a long list of missed opportunities for Vettel this season, who is now 50 points adrift of title rival Lewis Hamilton in the drivers’ standings.

When asked if the mistake was a result of the mounting pressure that comes from dropping so far behind in the title race, Vettel said: “No, no. When it’s like this everything becomes a bit of a gamble and obviously for us it didn’t work out today.

“I think it’s correct that maybe we’ve been on the wrong side a couple of times but I don’t think there was an awful big gap or an awful lot to get wrong. It’s not been going in our favour, which of course we need to understand why, if others did something better, then we need to know why.”