Sebastian Vettel felt it was a positive surprise to be as close to pole position for the United States Grand Prix as he was, with just 0.061 separating him from polesitter Lewis Hamilton.
The Scuderia Ferrari driver had not expected to be as competitive at the Circuit of the Americas as he was after a couple of race weekends where they have been under par in relation to the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport team.
Vettel will drop three places on the grid thanks to the penalty he acquired in free practice on Friday at the track for driving too quickly under red flag conditions, and although he is not predicting him to come through to take a victory that will help him close the points deficit to Hamilton, he is predicting a close race at the front of the field.
“Today it has been a positive surprise that we could go so fast, especially if we compare our performance with previous events,” said Vettel. “Obviously, if you are that close to pole position, you want to be ahead, so it’s also a shame that with the grid penalty we can’t be where we belong.
“It’s true that we came back in good shape today, but there’s still a long way to go though, so I can’t say tomorrow we are going to win. But I think it will be a close race and I just hope we’ll be as strong tomorrow as we were today; then anything can happen.”
Vettel said the pace improvement has seemingly come from taking off some of the developments the team had introduced to the SF71H in recent races, but it was still not enough to deny Hamilton the pole.
“We went back with our car quite a long way, and it seems to work better that way,” Vettel is quoted as saying by Motorsport.com. “I think if it less than one tenth [off] you will always think there was a little bit left.
“I was happy with the laps I had and overall it was a positive surprise to see how competitive we were today, given how far behind we were in the last events.”