Sebastian Vettel is optimistic his Ferrari's race pace can be the difference to catch the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg who locked out the front row in qualifying for the Mexican Grand Prix.

After slotting into third on the grid in qualifying with a 1m 19.850s - 0.370s off pole sitter Rosberg - Vettel felt his Ferrari never truly had the single lap pace to match the Mercedes around the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez and is satisfied with the head of the second row.

"We talk about another tenth maybe, I think it's always for us to say 'another tenth here or there, I could have squeezed a bit more' but I was reasonably happy with my lap and I think we were missing 0.4s at the end and the gap was probably too big," Vettel said. "So we have to be fair. I must say congratulations to Nico for a very good qualifying and he put in a very strong lap.

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"I don't think it's fair to blame it on the conditions of the track, they were just a sniff too quick. We will see what happens tomorrow, but it seems to be a fun circuit and finally it's started to rubber in a bit after yesterday was very slippery."

Vettel also says he anticipates a challenging race with uncertain conditions and a slippery track but is quietly confident his improvement in race pace compared to Mercedes could produce the opportunity for him to fight for a fourth race win of the year.

"I can't predict what's going to happen but usually we are always a bit stronger compared to them in the race," he said. "I think the tyres will be crucial tomorrow, the circuit is very slippery and I expect it to be slippery again. There might be some rain overnight so there might be a bit of a reset for the track."

During the top three F1 drivers' post-qualifying press conference Vettel joked about the potential clash into turn one between Rosberg and Hamilton and asked if the Mercedes team-mates could wipe each other out to help him, but the request fell on deaf ears.

"So can you take both of you out so I can go through? Yes? No? I tried."