After a difficult start to the United States Grand Prix weekend including a full chassis replacement on his car, Formula 1 title contender Sebastian Vettel has expressed his confidence in Ferrari's race pace as he looks to revive his fading championship hopes.

Vettel qualified second on Saturday behind title rival Lewis Hamilton, who leads the drivers' standings by 59 points and can clinch a fourth world title in Austin this weekend if results go his way.

Speaking about whether he was happy with a front row start, Vettel said it was crucial as he bids to halt Hamilton's coronation and draw himself back into contention for the title.

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"It was important to get front row because I believe our race pace is really good," Vettel said.

"In qualy all year we've been just a little bit behind. So well done to Lewis, he did two great laps, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow now." 

Hamilton took pole with a fastest lap of 1:33.108, with Vettel within a few tenths at 1:33.347 - a similar gap to the end of Free Practice 3, although both went over a second faster in qualifying, with Hamilton's best lap in the morning session a 1:34.478. 

Asked about whether he could hope to win in the US, Vettel said he was still eyeing the longer term, with the championship not mathematically wrapped up despite a 59 point gap to Hamilton.

"Well, not just here - it would be good to win also the others, but we have to go day by day," Vettel said.

"We were lacking a bit of running yesterday, getting up to speed but it was there when it mattered and the race is tomorrow." 

High winds at COTA have made the Saturday sessions trickier for drivers, including a particularly challenging first sector. Vettel admitted to having struggled with the conditions, saying" "I was very happy toward the end but I was lacking a bit in the middle, that transition from the first to second sector is quite tricky with the wind so I struggled a bit. 

"But finally I got it right and the last one really mattered."