Red Bull Racing's Sebastian Vettel has admitted McLaren were 'out of reach' today in qualifying for this Sunday's season opening Australian Grand Prix.
Vettel has been unusually off the pace for most of the weekend and was only seventh this morning in final practice. Qualifying didn't go much better either and while he admitted he could have been one or two places higher up, sixth was a bit of a come down for the two-time world champion, especially given his record in 2011, when he took pole on 15 different occasions.
Indeed you have to go back to 2010 and to the Italian GP for the last time he started from the third row.
"Qualifying was more or less as we expected - the cars being close to each other - and I think Q1 to Q3 the order always changed slightly," Vettel told Sky Sports
. “I wasn't entirely happy with my final attempt - I did a mistake at the beginning of the lap so I should have been higher up. But I think McLaren was out of reach today. Congratulations to them, they were really quick. Now we'll see what we can do tomorrow.
“I think we are not miles away so it's not a disaster. Obviously we would love to be a bit quicker and fight for pole position but today we were not good enough. But that's no reason to panic the race is tomorrow and we have not even had one grand prix yet.”
Mark Webber meanwhile qualified fifth in the sister car, and was fractionally quicker than his team-mate, despite only doing one run in Q3 and despite problems with his KERS.
“We knew there were some quick guys out there - McLaren and Mercedes especially and Roman [Grosjean] did well too,” Webber continued. “Everyone always thinks we have special bits to keep coming back, but this year it's opened right up.
"I didn't have KERS at the end of the session, which affects your rhythm during qualifying - it's a shame as it's been faultless all winter. I'm pleased with my lap in Q3. We can still get on the podium, but we have some fast cars around us, no question about it.”
“Mark lost his KERS going into Q3, which is the first KERS problem we have had all winter,” added Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner. “It's unfortunate that it had to strike at the most critical time of qualifying but, nonetheless, he did an excellent lap to record the fifth fastest time.
“Sebastian never seemed to really find the pace in the car that seemed to be there this morning, so we have plenty to look at this evening. Fifth and sixth is far from a disaster [though] and with the double DRS zones, I'm sure we can be in better shape tomorrow.”