Sebastian Vettel admitted that he should have secured a front row start for the Hungarian Grand Prix but insisted that McLaren rival Lewis Hamilton was a step ahead at the front of the field.

The Red Bull ace had to settle for third place after being beaten to top spot by both Hamilton and the Lotus of Romain Grosjean, with the Frenchman qualifying on the front row of the grid for the first time.

Vettel was left to rue the fact that he had only one set of new tyres to use in the final stage of qualifying and admitted he would need a good start to try and get into the lead early on.

"It was difficult session for us," he said. "We didn't get into qualifying how we would like and the rhythm wasn't there straight away. We burned more tyres than we thought in the beginning, so we only had one new set for Q3.

"The run we had was okay, but I didn't get the same feeling that I got at the end of Q2, which was a surprise, so we didn't seem to go with the track and make another step. Romain was in reach, but Lewis was another step. We know it's difficult to overtake here, but hopefully we will have a good start. Tyre management will be crucial."

Team-mate Mark Webber endured a more trying session as he failed to make it through the top-ten shootout although the Australian said he was confident of showing strong race pace on Sunday.

"I was happy with the car this morning," he said. "I was quick in P3, but I didn't feel happy on that last set of soft tyres in Q2 and struggled against my scrub time, which is a bit bizarre. The field is tight at the moment and it's disappointing to qualify in P11 obviously. Our race pace should be okay tomorrow."