Sebastian Vettel says it is never ideal to set just one fast lap during any Qualifying session, but the mid-session red flag during Q2 at the Bahrain International Circuit when Carlos Sainz Jr. stopped on track meant all drivers had only one shot to set a lap time good enough to get through to Q3.
Ultimately, the Scuderia Ferrari driver was unable to get into the top ten shootout, missing out by just over a tenth of a second, with Vettel set to start the Bahrain Grand Prix from eleventh on the grid.
Vettel admits he was expecting to be amongst the midfield runners this weekend, but heading into race day, he says there could be opportunities to move forward, particularly if they are clever with tyre management.
“Being able to do just a single lap is never ideal and that was clearly the case in Q2 today,” said Vettel. “We missed the cut to the next stage by a little over a tenth, but on my only quick lap, I first had George Russell ahead of me, which stopped me getting a tow from Charles, and then I didn’t manage to have a perfect second sector.
“That just adds to the disappointment because even if we expected to be in the midfield here, we could just as easily have been in the top ten rather than on the sixth row.
“All the same, I am confident that the team can still bring home a good amount of points tomorrow. Because of the track characteristics, the race will be mainly about tyre management and I think that we can do something good on that score.
“We will have to be as sly as a fox, be patient and make no mistakes.”
“I cannot hide the fact that I’m disappointed not to make it to the top ten” – Charles Leclerc
Team-mate Charles Leclerc admitted he was expecting an early elimination in Qualifying after a poor result in final practice, and ultimately, he will join Vettel on the sixth row on Sunday.
However, the Monegasque driver feels he could have performed better during the session, and he was disappointed not to break into the top ten. It does give the team freedom with tyre choice, but Leclerc does not feel it will be as important as usual as everyone inside the top ten managed to get through Q2 on the medium compound.
“After FP3 I didn’t think we could have ended up higher than P12, but looking back at how quali went, I feel I could have done a better job here and there, so I cannot hide the fact that I’m disappointed not to make it to the top ten,” said Leclerc.
“Seb and I are the first on the grid to have the freedom of going for a different strategy but I don’t think this is going to be much of an advantage, to be honest, since starting on the Medium seems like the best option and the top ten will be starting on the Medium too.
“It’s going to be a tricky race where tyres will overheat quickly so managing them will be key.”
“This was a tough qualifying for us” – Laurent Mekies
Laurent Mekies, the Sporting Director at Ferrari, was also expecting Qualifying to be tough for the Maranello-based outfit, and missing a few tenths cost them badly when it mattered in Q2.
Mekies says managing the tyres will be extremely important on Sunday, and he hopes that both Vettel and Leclerc can make gains to bring home some important points for the team.
“As expected, given how free practice went yesterday, this was a tough qualifying for us,” said Mekies. “As has been the case all season, the gaps between us and our closest competitors are pretty small but we were missing a few tenths to make it to Q3.
“The red flag early in Q2 certainly did us no favours, as Charles was on a really strong lap at the time. In terms of tyre usage today, we were thinking of the race and we hope that choice will work out tomorrow.
“We can expect a difficult race given our grid positions but there are around a dozen cars that all have quite similar pace. In a race in which we can expect more pit stops than usual the various strategies could open up opportunities and tyre behaviour will clearly be one of the key factors.
“The slightest detail could make the difference and, as usual, we will try our utmost to bring home as many points as possible.”