Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari posed little threat to Mercedes in Suzuka qualifying, but thanks to Valtteri Bottas’s grid penalty they will at least start Sunday’s Grand Prix from the front row. The other consolations? Their SF70H should be quicker in race trim – and the warmer temperatures could also play in their favour (or perhaps hinder their rivals)…
Q: Sebastian, you are on the front row, but how worried are you about that rather large gap to Hamilton in qualifying?
Sebastian Vettel: We will see tomorrow. Of course, it is not ideal from our perspective, but I expect that in race trim we are closer to the Mercedes.
Q: Third place today behind the two Mercedes – and you look pretty satisfied. We have seen you much less happy in the past with P3. What was different today?
SV: I think in the last run there was still a bit of time that I could have activated. I knew that there was a gap to Lewis, but I also knew that Valtteri [Bottas] was not an issue, so I tried – but it didn’t work out so well. In the end I knew that P1 was not really an option today.
Q: Tomorrow the weather is expected to be significantly warmer. Could that be a decisive factor?
SV: What are we talking about? 26 degrees Celsius? I guess it is not enough to be differentiator if that is meant as a hint that Mercedes at times had issues with the heat. But let’s wait and see – so far this weekend we have not had these kind of temperatures. Who knows? Fact is that under warmer conditions we do better.
Q: What will be the key issues in the race? An important race that you’ve won already four times against Lewis’s zero at Suzuka…
SV: A good start – that helps! The best-case scenario would be that they cannot keep up with us! (Laughs) Next thing is to have a good balanced car – especially when the conditions change from today to tomorrow. Ten degrees warmer – as a driver you have to have a good feeling when it comes to the front wing – to give the car the perfect finishing touch. The first stint will be very important: if you are behind never lose contact to the guy in front and when in front try everything to create a gap. The start will answer that question.
Q: Mercedes is one issue, but what about Red Bull? They have shown in Malaysia that they have a word or two to say when it comes to podiums…
SV: Yes, you should never underestimate them. I don’t know why it didn’t work out for them so well today. Maybe yes, it’s a question of conditions. My guess is that it will be tight when it comes to the podium, because they as well have been better in the race trim than with the single-lap pace.
Q: Wouldn’t a stable race weekend be a huge help after the events of recent Grands Prix?
SV: Yes, of course. The last races were a bit inconsistent. But with the forecast for tomorrow – no rain – we should have a good run. The start is downhill and that is a bit easier. That could hold an advantage.
Q: If the temperature is significantly higher tomorrow, what does that do to the car?
SV: It is not so much the car – the tyres are the key: the much famed window where the tyres work optimally. The smallest changes can have a significant impact when the car suddenly goes in a different direction than the driver intends to go…
Q: Could that be the chance to beat Lewis tomorrow?