Sebastian Vettel has sent out a stark message to Ferrari saying Mercedes’ domination of Formula 1 for five consecutive seasons is how his team must respond in 2019 to start its fightback.

The German driver could only manage the front of the second row in third place for Ferrari in qualifying as Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas dominated to a front row lockout – the fifth consecutive time the team has achieved the feat at the Yas Marian Circuit to underline its control of F1 in the V6 Hybrid era.

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Vettel ended Q3 0.331s off pole-sitter Hamilton’s lap time, but had continually challenged within one-tenth of the Mercedes duo before the final runs, and feels the German factory ultimately revealed its single-lap pace cushion on the final lap.

“In Q1 it was really tight so I thought we would have more of a say but in Q2 I think Lewis put a really strong lap in on the harder tyres,” Vettel said. “I thought ‘ah, it’s going to be difficult’.

“Then the first run in Q3 I had a really good lap which was very close again but they must have still had some cushion for the last lap. I did improve and I think the track ramped up but not enough to be a threat.”

Vettel feels Mercedes’ domination is something Ferrari must learn from over the winter if he is to challenge for the F1 title in 2019.

“If we do our job really, really well and we work together then we have a chance of finishing higher up,” Vettel said when asked how to beat Mercedes. “It is needless to say that Hamilton is on an incredible run over the past five years and since the day he joined Formula 1 until now to be honest.

“I think it is the fifth consecutive pole and front row lockout for Mercedes so it also proves they are doing a really, really good job as a team. It is something for us, and it is not that easy, but it is a challenge to beat such a strong team but that is our target.

“We know we have a lot of work ahead of us and we have lessons to be learned from this year but ultimately I think we have 21 races, the 21st coming tomorrow, and at some of them we haven’t been strong enough this year to take the challenge to the last race and last lap.”

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