Sebastian Vettel does not feel his pole position effort at the Japanese Grand Prix has acted as a breakthrough after his recent struggles in Formula 1 qualifying sessions.

Vettel had been out-qualified by Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc at each of the past nine grands prix - a run stretching back to Vettel’s last pole at June’s Canadian Grand Prix - with the Monegasque claiming four poles on the bounce since F1’s summer break.

The German stormed to his fifth career pole at Suzuka but was unable to convert it into a second win of the 2019 campaign as he bogged down off the line and ultimately had to settle for a distant second behind Valtteri Bottas.

Asked if he felt he had made a breakthrough with the car at Suzuka, Vettel replied: “Not really, I think it was just a clean [qualifying] session.

“I don't think there was a particular problem. Obviously, we've been improving the car since Singapore, the update has helped me in areas where maybe I struggled a bit before.

“But overall I think qualifying sessions on my side haven’t gone entirely smooth. So, maybe that one just went quite smooth. Both laps were clean, I had no issues preparing the lap and so on.

“[There is] nothing that has changed, we didn't change the car for here, so nothing that would explain the step in performance.”

Mercedes had looked in a strong position having dominated Friday practice, but Ferrari was able to turn the tables on the German manufacturer come Sunday’s rescheduled qualifying, scoring its second front-row lockout.

Explaining Ferrari’s turnaround, team principal Mattia Binotto said: “It’s always difficult to judge the true performance on Friday, because we may be on different programmes.

“I don’t know how they were running. But focusing on ourselves, we got some car issues on Friday. We got quite high degradation, and we were through the setup for qualy and the race.

“We dropped the rear wing for qualy and the race, which helped as well the front balance. The car felt better. I think we got the right pace in the qualy but not in the race still.

“We’ve got some degradation, higher at least to our competitors, how much it was compared to Friday, again difficult to judge. I think simply we try and address the issues we had on Friday and the car improved.”

 

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