Despite posting his worst qualifying position since gridding 16th for the 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel refused to blame anything but fate for denting his chances of winning in China.
The world champion missed the cut for the final phase of qualifying at Shanghai International Circuit after failing to improve sufficiently on a late run in Q2 to better eleventh place, the first time he had missed the top ten in two full seasons. Despite that, however, Vettel was remarkably sanguine, accepting that this year's Red Bull entry does not enjoy the same sort of dominance as its immediate predecessors. Over the same period, the German only missed the front row on seven occasions, with a worst qualifying performance of sixth, in the 2010 Italian GP at Monza, where RBR traditionally struggled for straight-line speed.
"I was quite happy with the car but, in the last instance, it was not fast enough," he told the official F1 website, "In the end, the gap wasn't insurmountable [Vettel was only three-tenths off the P1 time of team-mate Mark Webber], but it just simply didn't happen. We haven't been fast enough.
"I don't want to blame it on the car. I was doing almost identical times in all my three laps, which obviously means that there was no room for improvement. It's sad because, as I just said before, I felt quite good in the car. There was nothing fundamentally wrong, and I felt pretty comfortable, but the last couple of tenths didn't drop and this is the result."
Much has been made of the fact that Vettel had opted to use the older-spec' RB8 exhaust this weekend, while team-mate Webber was sticking to the latest version, but the German again refused to blame the decision for his failure to match the Australian's performance, which took RBR's qualifying match-up to 3-0 in Webber's favour.
"I opted for this solution on Friday afternoon simply because I felt more comfortable with this version," he explained, "This morning, it didn't feel that good anymore so, of course, you start to think. In the afternoon, it had improved again - but, unfortunately, not enough. With hindsight, it is always easy to blame it on a wrong decision, but that decision felt right for me at that moment. Of course we will have to sit down and look into the matter to avoid such a situation in the future."
Vettel will, however, take heart from the fact that neither race in 2012 has been won from pole position, with Fernando Alonso coming from eighth to take victory in Malaysia last time out. With the opportunity to start the race on whatever tyres he chooses, unlike the top ten who have to start with the tyres they qualified on, and with a set unused in Q3, Vettel will also reflect fondly on that Brazilian Grand Prix, in which he came through to fourth place as Jenson Button claimed the world title.
"It will be a long and demanding race, so there should be some chances to better the position," he accepted, "But, of course, it is always easier to start at the front and stay there. I have a new set of tyres still left, and I can start on whatever tyres I like, so that is probably the only positive in this situation. It may make life a bit easier tomorrow...."