Sebastian Vettel was frustrated not to be able to challenge Fernando Alonso for pole position at his home grand prix, reluctantly accepting that being delayed by Red Bull team-mate was unavoidable in the circumstances.
Qualifying was held in changeable conditions for the second time in two weekends, with the opening session taking place on a dry track before the rain arrived and made the ensuing phases increasingly wet. While Alonso was on the fresh tyres and running last on the track, he was always the favourite to claim pole, and duly did so without needing to improve his time - although he did that too - as neither Red Bull driver was able to find enough of a gain to surmount the original margin to top spot. Vettel, however, believed that he may have had a shot at challenging the Ferrari driver had he not been delayed by his own team-mate.
"I think the thing is, if you are too close to someone in these conditions, you can't see nothing," he lamented, having been seen expressing his displeasure form the cockpit during the hold-up, "I was catching up [to] Mark and, in the mirrors, obviously you can't see nothing, so I guess he couldn't see me. I don't think he had intention to hold me up [but], obviously, I lost two laps because of that....
"But, as I said, the fastest [lap] was still the last one. And, then, if you keep catching someone up, even if he's still three, four, five seconds down the road, you go on the straight, the spray comes up, you see nothing, you don't see the rivers and, all of a sudden, you are sideways. The car is in seventh gear, 280kph and it's a surprise. So yeah, it's on the limit but obviously you have to do your best under these conditions, everyone else is pushing as well, so no choice."
Ironically, Alonso hadn't wanted Q3 to go ahead with the conditions as bad as they were, radioing his pit crew to tell them that the amount of standing water made driving dangerous, and Vettel was quick to explain the sensations the drivers were feeling.
"Of course, you can see a little bit - it's not as if you could close your eyes and it's the same," he revealed, "Don't get me wrong, but you can't see where the track is going. Obviously you know
where it's going - you don't need a map to find out where you are - but all you see is just the very first bit in front of your car. There are rivers everywhere and there's probably only two lanes: one for the left-hand side, one for the right-hand side. If you are in that, you are more or less okay but, as soon as you are a little bit left, a little bit to the right, a little bit to the left of that, then you are in trouble.
"As soon as the car aquaplanes, you are a passenger, so there's not much you can do. Obviously, once you start to brake and the spray decreases, it gets much better, but, the closer you are to another car, the worse it is. Even if you are four or five seconds behind on the straights, it's always worse. If you are the first car out and there's no-one ahead of you, it's not a big big problem You still have to drive your way around the puddles and the rivers, but at least you can see where you're going. It's not the nicest feeling, but that's how it is...."
Having secured a place on the front row in the wet, Vettel is confident that the RB8 can perform as well should the dry forecast for raceday come true.
"We had some laps in the dry this weekend but, for sure, at the start of the race, it will be difficult for all of us," he reasoned, "Not all of us have done runs on heavy fuel - I think the McLarens did, but I don't think Ferrari and us did, so we will see, but it shouldn't be a big problem. We know the circuit pretty well and, hopefully, we will find the braking point for, not necessarily the first corner, but the second corner and then the hairpin. Then you have time to get into the rhythm.
"I hope for a good race and, looking forward, I think the car is not bad if we get in the right window. We need to see what we've done this morning and qualifying. Obviously, with the conditions changing so much, you never find consistency and you can't really test one thing against another. But I think the speed is there, we just need to find out how the car works best. Obviously, we can't change anything [after qualifying], but I think the changes we've made should be a step forward, especially in the dry."