Sebastian Vettel says he failed to improve during his final qualifying run in Mexico because he pushed harder than usual in an effort to beat the dominant Red Bull duo.
Vettel, who qualified fourth, was initially third at the start of Q3, but he later dropped a place to Lewis Hamilton after failing to improve at the end of the session.
The Ferrari driver was “pretty happy” with his lap in Q3 that was initially three hundredths quicker than Lewis Hamilton. At this point, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen led the session with a tenth in hand. Vettel said he tried to “push harder” on his final lap, being aware that the only way of beating the Red Bull’s would’ve been to improve by at least a couple of tenths.
But in an effort to push, Vettel produced a lap he described as “not very clean”. His final lap was a tenth slower than his initial effort. On the other hand, Lewis Hamilton, Vettel’s season-long rival, improved by two tenths during his final run. The lap left the Briton to claim third place behind both Red
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Vettel didn’t elude to the battle with Hamilton in his post-race comments. There was no acknowledgement that pushing harder to attack Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo inadvertently allowed Lewis Hamilton to leapfrog ahead of Vettel.
Vettel’s decision to attack Verstappen and Ricciardo means he was determined to take pole position, instead of merely outpacing championship rival Hamilton. In the scheme of the season, it was crucial for Vettel to outpace Hamilton, who only needs to finish in the top seven during tomorrow’s race to confirm his fifth Formula 1 crown. Now, Vettel starts one place behind his main rival.
Since the summer break, Vettel has struggled to fight on track during Grands Prix. The Ferrari driver collided with other drivers in Italy, Japan, and last weekend’s US Grand Prix. These mistakes explain the huge 70 point gap to Lewis Hamilton.
Sunday’s race will be “long”, according to Vettel, and he felt tyre management, as well as strategy, were the key factors needed to win. Hamilton didn’t state what was needed for victory but did say he was looking forward to the race and optimistic of challenging the Red Bull’s, who’ve topped every session of the weekend thus far.