Sebastian Vettel was left reeling a misjudged tyre gamble from Ferrari in qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix that leaves him starting on the fifth row for Sunday’s race.
Ferrari’s pace in practice suggested Mercedes had the upper hand heading into qualifying, and this was justified as the Silver Arrows’ topped the first two segments.
Ferrari opted for intermediate tyres on a damp track surface from rain that had fallen at the end of Q2, but the rest of the top 10 chose dry tyres, which proved to be the correct choice, as Mercedes blitzed the sector times to top the timesheets.
Despite switching to dry tyres mid-session, both Kimi Raikkonen and Vettel crucially made mistakes on their sole runs at Spoon Curve, and with their second attempts hampered by heavy rain they were both forced to abort the lap – with Vettel a lowly ninth by the end of the session.
“It’s not the position we deserve to be in,” Vettel said. “We have more speed than ninth but we start there and see how it goes.
“It was not our day. I had a snap in Spoon which didn’t help but not our qualifying. I think the first run was OK. But I had a mistake so lost most of the time there but the second run we obviously didn’t make it out on time because the rain came.”
Given Ferrari’s improvements from a difficult Friday, Vettel was frustrated factors had prevented the team from showing its progress but insists a big haul of points is not out of the question.
“I think we made a step from yesterday but obviously we weren’t able to show it. Tomorrow is a new day, it won’t be easy when you start further back but it’s not impossible.”