Sebastian Vettel may have been out-gunned, once again, by the two Mercedes drivers in qualifying for the British Grand Prix, but believes that Red Bull will be the car to beat on race day at Silverstone.
Lewis Hamilton's pole lap – which prompted the three-time world champion to suggest that his rival had taken a short cut – left Vettel trailing by six-tenths of a second, but the German has become accustomed to the Silver Arrows setting the Saturday pace only to fail to live up to it on Sunday.
“We're certainly not giving away anything consciously or on purpose - they are bloody quick in qualifying,” he smiled, “We are not too bad but, obviously, they seem to be in a different world on Saturday afternoons. They manage something pretty well around the tyres, which allows them to get a very, very strong lap in. Plus Nico and Lewis are doing a great job….
“It doesn't help if you want to qualify on pole, but points are scored on Sunday and the last couple of races have been pretty good for us. For sure, today I think P3 was our maximum but, for tomorrow, who knows? They are also getting better, [but] I think we all try to understand more and more and, as the season goes on, we get better and there's less and less room for improvement.
“For the moment, it seems that we have a strong car in the race, maybe a little bit better than the Mercedes. Whether it will be like that tomorrow? Well, we'll find out. But that's the fun part. I'm looking forward to finding out.”
Vettel also accepted that Red Bull appeared comfortable with its level of tyre wear for the race, something that Mercedes may not be.
“It depends,” he conceded, “I think 'comfortable or not' depends on where the others are. I think we were happy with the runs that we had [on Friday]. I had another one [Saturday] morning, so I think we are pretty happy with that, but it's difficult to judge because you don't know what fuel loads other people are running, so we will find out.
“[Sunday] is supposed to be hotter, which is nice for the crowd after the last couple of years, [but] it could change the balance of the car and how the tyres work. I think we've saved as many tyres as we could - and the ones that we liked - so let's see what we can do tomorrow.”
Despite his optimism, and the fact that main championship rivals Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen were mired at the opposite end of the top ten, Vettel insisted that he was not thinking in terms of his championship advantage.
“I didn't really think about that,” he confirmed, “I think it's not good news for [Alonso] as, for sure, he wanted to be a little bit higher up. It's a bit of a surprise as I think they've been very competitive here the last couple of years, but this is also a circuit, let's not forget, where the balance is very important so, even if you have a good car, if it's not coming together, it can make a big difference, especially over one lap.
“That's why I'm not too interested to look at the results today. In the race, we've seen that a lot of things can happen and people starting from further back can still score a lot of points and come through the field. I think, in terms of race pace and tyre wear, [Ferrari] will be strong tomorrow and, surely, should everything go as per plan for them, they will finish higher up than tenth. Everything else, I think, would be a surprise.”