Sebastian Vettel missed out on pole position in the US by just 12 thousandths of a second, a gap which has left him feeling “unlucky” as he believes there “was maybe some room to be faster”.
In the end, Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas grabbed pole position for Sunday’s United States Grand Prix while Vettel joins him on the front row.
The Ferrari driver appeared to be caught out by a sudden change of conditions in qualifying, which slowed the track evolution down in the final phase of Q3.
“My aim was to set a good time [on my first lap] and then improve on my second set of tyres,” he explained after qualifying.
During his final run in Q3, Vettel didn’t improve on his initial time because, as he recounted in a post-qualifying statement, he was too aggressive and “maybe the track had got a bit slower”.
“That’s where the time that might have put me on pole, escaped me.”Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel.
Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto said the close margin between Vettel and Bottas was good for the fight and the sport, but had left Ferrari feeling disappointed.
“It’s true that we have started from the front a few times without winning, so let’s see if this time we can turn things around,” Binotto commented.
Bottas’ result in the US put an end to Ferrari’s run of six consecutive pole positions.
This weekend’s race will be the first since the summer break that a team other than Ferrari have started from pole position. The last time Mercedes led the field away on a Sunday was during July’s German Grand Prix.
Bottas said it was a great feeling to be on pole, especially after struggling with the car on Friday, where he finished both practice sessions behind team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
The Finn also admitted his lap “wasn’t quite perfect”.
On the other side of the garage, Lewis Hamilton described the session as one of the worst qualifying sessions he’d had “in a long time”.
“Clearly the car had the capability to be on the front row, I just couldn’t put the lap together,” he said.
Hamilton, who’s on the verge of winning a record-sixth World Championship this weekend, will start Sunday’s race from 5th.