Sebastian Vettel said that he was “reasonably happy” to be starting from second place in Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.
The Ferrari didn’t have the pace to match Lewis Hamilton’s record-setting pace in qualifying. The second Mercedes driven by Valtteri Bottas also edged Vettel in the final round of the session.
However Bottas has to serve a fine-place grid penalty for the race after taking an new gearbox on Friday. That promotes Vettel back into the shotgun position for the Grand Prix, and the four-time champion is happy with that prospect.
“Qualifying seemed quite good to be honest. I’m reasonably happy,” he said after the end of the session.
“I tried everything on the last run,” he admitted. “I knew I had to take a bit more risk but it didn’t work and I ran out of track at the exit of the Esses.
“But I knew that even if Valtteri could get past, I would still be on the front row,” he pointed out.
“I would’ve liked to have been a bit quicker, but it’s quite amazing with the new cars around here.”
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Vettel’s team mate Kimi Raikkonen was sixth fastest in qualifying. However, like Bottas he faces a five place grid drop after damaging his gearbox in an accident on Saturday morning.
The team had been hard at work rebuilding Raikkonen’s car right up until the moment the track went green at the start of the session.
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“For sure the team did a great job [rebuilding the car],” he told Sky Sports F1. “But you pay a price for mistakes, and I made a mistake today and we had to change the gearbox.
“Obviously it was far from ideal to prepare for qualifying, especially after yesterday’s little running in the dry.
“[The car] felt okay. But obviously when I had to really push I made a mistake in the first run in the last qualifying, and then a really average lap time on the second.
“But you know, it’s a bit tricky after the mistake that I did and obviously not really knowing where we should be,” he sighed. “It’s a consequence of missing or crashing in the wrong moment of the weekend.”
Starting from outside the top ten leaves Raikkonen a big task for Sunday. Despite Ferrari’s impressive speed, Suzuka is not an easy track to overtake on at the best of times.
“Obviously not ideal starting position,” Raikkonen admitted. “But I think we should have a good car so we’ll see what happens.”
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