Sebastian Vettel says the gap to Mercedes in qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix was “too big” after Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton locked out the front row.
Ferrari secured first and second on the grid in Bahrain but was unable to match Mercedes in Shanghai, with Bottas taking pole by 0.023s from Hamilton and 0.3s from Vettel. Although the German felt there was more lap time available on his final attempt, he says Ferrari didn’t have the pace to beat Mercedes on Saturday.
“Too big,” Vettel said of the gap. “I think we had a decent session. Obviously important if we can’t beat them to be right behind them, buying us some options tomorrow, hopefully.
“I think right from Q1 they just seemed to start off from a better place. I think we had a good session. Maybe there was a tiny bit more but I actually was quite happy that I managed the final attempt, because I was quite marginal with time — the team told me that we only had 10 seconds’ margin. So I then hurried up and made sure I crossed the line in time. I think there was maybe a little bit more, but overall not enough to beat (Mercedes) today.”
Referencing the time left at the end of the session, Vettel was one of a number of cars caught in traffic at the end of the final out lap and he had to make some overtaking moves in order to guarantee he got his final attempt in.
“I guess everyone timed it around the same, so we all left for the same spot. And if you’re at the end of the train, which I was, then it was quite difficult. And when the team told me we only have 10 seconds’ margin to cross the line in time to make another attempt, I had to think of something.
“I do not know if others were not told. If everyone would have sped up the way I did, then yeah, we would have all made it. But I obviously prioritized to make the lap. It felt like others were not aware.”
While Vettel is confident Ferrari’s straight-line speed will allow him to overtake given an opportunity, he is wary of Mercedes’ ability to keep the Scuderia at bay.
“(Mercedes) are bloody quick in the corners! For us, obviously when we get close I think we have an advantage in a straight line so maybe we can do something there. The race is long and we’ll take it from there, but it should be a good day tomorrow.”