Sebastian Vettel was pleased to recover from a "slow start" to the French Grand Prix weekend to secure third place in Formula 1 qualifying at Paul Ricard on Saturday, trailing the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.

F1 drivers' championship leader Vettel struggled to get into a rhythm through practice on Friday, but was able to finish just three-tenths of a second shy of pole-sitter Hamilton in Q3, leading Ferrari to the second row of the grid ahead of both Red Bull drivers.

The result came as a boost to Ferrari after Vettel was unable to complete any significant running in the rain-affected FP3 session on Saturday morning, leaving the team heavily reliant on its simulator work back at base.

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"We had a bit of a slow start yesterday. It was a bit slow to get in the rhythm, but our long run was better," Vettel said.

"Car-wise, we didn’t change too much, but for sure I think some of the changes helped. It was good to have the support from the factory, they’re obviously looking to try and get everything right for qualifying.

"For the set up I think we were probably relying on the simulator, Antonio Giovinazzi yesterday and Daniil Kvyat was here and helping us so thanks to them as well. I don’t know why Fridays seem a bit off than Sundays, but it’s obviously better that way."

Ferrari struggled to match Mercedes' race pace through the Spanish Grand Prix last month when Pirelli used its reduced-tread compounds, which returned for this weekend at Paul Ricard following the track's resurfacing ahead of its first F1 race since 1990.

Vettel is hopeful Ferrari will avoid the same issues, and is also hopeful of making his alternative strategy work as he starts the race on Ultrasofts tyres, with the Mercedes and Red Bull runners set to line up on Supersofts.

"We had a pretty good long run. Obviously we start also on a different strategy so we’ll see about the first pit stop compared to the others," Vettel said.

"I think we'll focus on the start and see the true pace in the race. It should be good for us. The tyres in Barcelona, Mercedes were very strong so we couldn't go with them, but for here, I hope it's going to be different."

 

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