For the first time in fifteen races, Sebastian Vettel found himself involved in the third part of Qualifying, with the German set to start the Portuguese Grand Prix from tenth on the grid.
The Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team racer had struggled with the AMR21 so far in 2021, but he was able to get into the top ten for the first time since joining the Silverstone-based team at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve.
Vettel admits he is still learning about the car and working out its strengths and weaknesses, so to get into the top ten shootout so early in the season was pleasing. He also hopes this is the turning point for his season that allows him to be a genuine points contender going forward.
“I am feeling happier after that session,” said Vettel. “We are starting inside the top ten and will be in the middle of a big fight for points.
“There is still a lot of hard work ahead of us, but things are starting to click for me and become a bit more automatic, which is helping me focus more on my driving. I am still learning about the car, but today I felt more comfortable. The conditions were tricky – despite the sunshine – and the gusts of wind were quite unpredictable and made the car feel quite light.
“My final lap in Q3 was not the best. The wind direction had changed again, and I lost some time as a result, which is costly when the midfield is so tight. Overall, though, it was a better session for me. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”
“With a strong first lap and a good strategy, I think we can score points” – Lance Stroll
Team-mate Lance Stroll, racing this weekend with an updated AMR21, was less fortunate in Qualifying, with the Canadian finding himself eliminated at the first hurdle after encountering traffic when he least needed it.
Stroll will start down in seventeenth position, and he admitted he was not comfortable behind the wheel despite having the updates to his car that team-mate Vettel did not.
“A difficult qualifying session and we did not manage to build on the performance level we showed yesterday,” said Stroll. “I was not very comfortable in the car today and I could not lean on it as much.
“The traffic at the end of Q1 also did not help and cost me some time on my second run. It is quite a change from yesterday, so we will go away and understand where we can improve and do better next time.”
Despite his lowly grid slot, the Canadian is still eyeing up the top ten on race day, and he feels a good start and a perfect strategy will allow him to score points again on Sunday.
“Even though today’s result is disappointing, I think we will be stronger in the race,” added Stroll. “That has been the case in the previous two races. It is a track where we saw lots of overtaking last year and I will be pushing hard to make up ground tomorrow.
“With a strong first lap and a good strategy, I think we can score points.”