Sebastian Vettel will not blame a member of his Ferrari team for the qualifying error that has left him eighth on the grid at the Japanese Grand Prix.
Ferrari opted to start Q3 on intermediate tires after a rain shower at the end of Q2 had prevented drivers from improving their times. However, the rain had stopped in between sessions and the track was too dry — with Vettel voicing that opinion when sitting at the end of the pit lane and having to switch to supersofts after one lap. With the rest of the field running immediately on supersofts and getting the better of the track conditions, Vettel says it was impossible to predict when further rain would fall.
“Five or six or seven minutes later it started to rain quite heavily, so there was something in the air,” Vettel said. “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.”
Vettel originally ended up ninth at the end of qualifying — later promoted to eighth by a penalty for Esteban Ocon — after running wide at Spoon on his one clean lap as the rain intensified. But the German says the track was dry enough for him to post a competitive time before he went off.
“I think it was OK. I lost it then into (turn) 14, so obviously that was the only lap I had which didn’t help, but yeah we lost a bit of time due to that in the beginning. As I said, if it starts to rain five, six seven minutes earlier we did a miracle. Obviously we’re the only ones looking stupid.
“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.”
Denying Ferrari is making mistakes as it falls further behind in the title race, Vettel believes Saturday’s error at Suzuka was a small one with big consequences.
“I don’t think there was that much missing, you know. 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 favor, which of course we need to understand. If others did something better, we need to know why.”