Sebastian Vettel has said that he expects his Red Bull car to be more competitive in the Hungarian Grand Prix itself than at any other point in the Budapest weekend.
The German qualified third for the final race before F1 heads into its summer break, admitting that it had been difficult to find the right balance to challenge Lewis Hamilton and McLaren for pole position, but says that he believes that RB8 will be a different proposition on fuller tanks.
"[It was] a bit difficult for us to really get the balance right," he confirmed after qualifying, "I think the car is quick – and sometimes really quick – but it's a bit difficult to get it out of the car all the time. I think, [on Friday] afternoon, we were quite happy, this morning we weren't that happy and, in qualifying, it seemed to get better again. So we'll see. I think it should be a good race tomorrow, [as] I think the pace with fuel in the car is probably a little bit better than without fuel, so we'll see what we can do."
Vettel waited until the second half of Q3 before launching his bid for pole, having had to use his various sets of tyres in the earlier phases, but conceded that he and the team were gradually edging closer to the right set-up as the day progressed.
"I think, for us, it's more difficult to get everything to work properly," he repeated, "I think the speed is there, but it seems extremely difficult once you lose the balance a little bit. I think we were struggling a little bit with that in qualifying [but], throughout qualifying, I think it got better. We shot through all the tyres, more or less. Obviously, we had to use one more set than per plan, which was not great, and I knew I only had one set in Q3 but, in the end, we used as many tyres as everyone else. I'm not entirely happy with the lap I had - I think Grosjean was in reach, but Lewis was probably a bit too far away today.
"But I think, with the progress we made this morning and through qualifying, we should be in a good position tomorrow for the race. We'll see what we can do. It's probably not too bad to start third here, it's on the clean side and it's a long way to turn one...."
Asked, once again, whether the FIA's decision to clamp down on engine mapping had hampered Red Bull's performance, Vettel repeated his belief that there had been no discernible effect, and pointed instead to the difficulty of switching the tyres on as the key to fluctuations in performance.
"I don't think [the FIA's ruling] really affected us as much as people think," he stressed, "As I said, we were struggling a little bit generally to find a balance throughout the weekend, but it has nothing to do with the mapping.
"I think we've seen this year that everyone seems to struggle more than in the past to improve the car through upgrades. I think in China, [Lotus] had an upgrade which they then decided to go back on. McLaren, I think, had upgrades and decided to go back. For us, we had some stuff and decided to go back. Why is that? Because you realise that it's not quicker.
"I think it's quite complex this year to understand the cars. Obviously, in combination with the tyres, everyone has less downforce this year [and], generally, if you have more downforce, it also helps to switch on the tyres, to work the tyres more consistently. But, as everyone has less downforce this year, I think the window is extremely narrow and it's very difficult to get it right every time, so that's why I think we probably see a little bit more inconsistency this year."