A lot of things can happen, admits Vettel
23 September 2012
Sebastian Vettel may not have lived up to his early weekend billing as he faded to third on the grid in qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix, but remains confident that opportunities remain for him to reassert himself on race day.
The German had topped all three free practice sessions, and went head-to-head with McLaren's Lewis Hamilton through the early stages of qualifying, before losing out, not only to the Briton, but also to Williams' Pastor Maldonado in the final phase. Admitting that he wasn't entirely sure what had caused his pace to drop off to the tune of half a second, Vettel refused to write off his chances of adding a back-to-back victory on the streets of Marina Bay.
"I'm a little disappointed, especially [in] Q3, as I don't know why we couldn't do the step," he lamented, "Nevertheless, third is a good position to start from, [and] there is a long race tomorrow, a lot of things that can happen.
"I think the pace is there, we've proven [that] throughout the weekend, but, surely, if you don't do the last step in qualifying, it's a shame, because I think the speed was there. It didn't come together in the end. In Q2, I got the lap in reasonably safely and I was a little bit off Lewis, I think one-and-a-half tenths, so I was confident that we can go quicker somewhere, lower in the 46s region. I think Lewis's time in Q3 was very quick, but I think the pace was there to do better than what we did in Q2 but, in the end, I was even struggling to repeat the lap I did in the beginning."
With the race likely to approach the two-hour maximum, and the ever-present threat of safety cars as the drivers struggle to avoid contact with the walls and each other as their tyres degrade, there could be plenty of opportunities for Vettel to make up the places he lost in qualifying.
"I think the speed is there, as we have been competitive throughout the weekend," he confirmed, "The race is very long here, a lot of things can happen - like safety cars - so it's important to be in the right place at the right time and then we go from there. It's not the easiest circuit [to overtake on], but it's not impossible.
"You can't drive round waiting for the safety car to have a break but, obviously, there's little run-off here and we saw in free practice that, if a car stops on the circuit, then it's already enough to have yellow flags at least and a potential safety car in the race. It's difficult to know what happens, but we'll see tomorrow I guess. So far we've always had [a safety car] as far as I can remember...."
Tyre wear has been a problem throughout practice and qualifying, but Vettel shares Hamilton's belief that the bigger gaps between the times should provide ample gaps for the strategists to help his cause.
"I think that, hopefully, by the time we pit, we'll have a big gap to the guys who are maybe on a different strategy," the German reasoned, "I think it's difficult to know now how long we will be able to stay out, although obviously we have a rough idea. I think we're all on the same tyre and the same amount of laps, so we will see when the lights go off, but I think it will be a difficult race for tyre degradation and I think the difficulty is that we probably don't know what to expect."
Red Bull, of course, also arrived in Singapore still unsure of the exact cause of Vettel's alternator failure at Monza, and wary that the heat and humidity of Marina Bay could bring a repeat. The German, however, was relieved not to have a problem through the first two days of the weekend.
"There's no guarantee - it's hard to get a guarantee on anything in life - so we'll see," he said, "So far, we didn't have any problems, no signs, but Monza was a different story, as obviously we had a failure on Saturday and Sunday. Today, no failures and, hopefully tomorrow, we'll be fine as well. No concerns."