Sebastian Vettel was positively surprised by Ferrari’s pace in qualifying for the United States Grand Prix as both cars got within 0.1s of pole position.
Lewis Hamilton will start from pole for the second consecutive race and the third straight time in Austin, but only edged out Vettel by 0.061s and Kimi Raikkonen by 0.07s in an extremely close qualifying session. And while he was disappointed to miss out on pole position, Vettel — who will start fifth due to a grid penalty — was encouraged by Ferrari’s pace.
“I think if it is less than a tenth then you have to think there was probably a little bit left,” Vettel said. “I was pretty happy with the laps that I had to be honest. Today has been a positive surprise I guess for both of us to see how competitive we have been today given how far we’ve been behind for the last two races. There are some positives but if you are that close you probably want to be ahead.
“I can’t change [the penalty] now, obviously it is what it is. We went back with our car quite a long way but it seems to perform better now.”
Raikkonen, who will line up alongside Hamilton due to Vettel’s penalty for failing to slow sufficiently under red flags on Friday, says his own attempts to take pole were compromised by a big difference between his first and second laps in Q3.
“I think if you could do a few more tries then for sure you could improve that amount, as it was a very small difference and you could go that much quicker,” Raikkonen said. “This is what we got today.
“I think the last run was pretty good, but on the previous one there was very little grip so I was surprised how much on the last run I had. When you have a little more consistent grip it’s easier to know how much you can actually push, but it was OK.”
Raikkonen will start on the ultrasoft compound tire, compared to the supersofts that Hamilton, Vettel, Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo used in Q2, and says it is a risk worth taking as he should have more grip off the line at the start.
“No one really knows how the tires will survive because of yesterday’s rain, so it will be interesting. I don’t have much to lose. We try to make a good start and go from there to see what we can do. It should be OK.”