Sebastian Vettel has admitted that Lewis Hamilton's inability to contest Q3 at the Russian Grand Prix will make his afternoon slightly easier, despite having to take a five-place grid drop of his own.
The German incurred his penalty after Ferrari was forced to change the gearbox in his car after FP2, and would have been looking at, at best, a spot on the outside of row four had both Mercedes drivers been able to run in Q3 but, with Hamilton suffering a repeat of his Shanghai engine problems, Vettel knew that being best of the rest behind Nico Rosberg would at least give him a better starting spot.
“Of course I would have liked the gap in the end to be a bit smaller,” he said of the seven-tenths gap to his countryman, “but I think, in Q2, we saw that Nico, in particular, was very strong, and it was a good job from his side.
“For us, I think [what I did] was the maximum, and we benefitted from what happened to Lewis, as it allowed us to go P2, which helps for tomorrow with the penalty. We are a bit closer [to the front], and starting on the clean side of the track, so I think we can have a good race from there. It should be quite exciting.
Despite stopping on track during Friday afternoon practice, and the still-expansive gap to Mercedes, Vettel remained upbeat about the SF16-H, and insisted that the gremlins which have bugged both himself and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen over the first four weekends of the season were not getting him down.
“The car feels good and I think all weekend has been quite strong,” he commented, “We lost some time [on Friday], but I think we made it up this morning so it shouldn't be an issue.
“I'm not frustrated at all. Obviously, it's not nice if these things happen because they don't make your life easier but, equally, it's part of racing. These things can happen, [but] they didn't happen on purpose, they weren't planned, and I think we are pushing very hard trying to catch up, which I think - especially in race pace - we've proved already this year.
“Obviously, we didn't have a properly clean race yet but maybe we will have tomorrow - you never know!”