Sebastian Vettel has admitted he was ‘lucky’ to take pole position in Singapore after striking the wall on his final run in qualifying.
The Ferrari driver outpaced the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo by three tenths of a second to secured his third pole of the season on Saturday night. However, he admitted things might have been different had luck not been on his side when his left-front tyre made contact with the barriers late in the lap.
"I was a bit lucky on my final lap, because I brushed the wall quite severely out of 19,” said Vettel, a four-time Singapore winner. “It was not just a little brush; it was actually a hit. I thought, “OK, I have to keep going”.
“It was fine until I approached the last corner; I had huge vibration. Thankfully there was only one corner left but I really pushed as hard as I could.
"I knew in the final run that even if I had the upper hand going in, these guys would have something in their pocket, so I needed to get it absolutely right.
“Obviously the weekend so far has been a bit up and down for us. Yesterday was difficult. This afternoon was difficult. Tonight the car really came alive and it was just getting better.”
Vettel added that pole was especially satisfying given his struggles for pace earlier in the weekend, and reserved particular praise for the work done back at the team’s factory in Italy, not least by Ferrari juniors Charles Leclerc and Antonio Giovinazzi.
“I think it’s been phenomenal, the amount of work,” he explained. “Obviously yesterday we were a little bit caught off guard. The car wasn’t behaving the way we wanted it to but it’s been pretty special, I think: the amount of effort that has gone in overnight, the support from Maranello.
“Charles has been in the simulator – usually it’s swapping between Antonio Giovinazzi and Charles so that’s very, very important for us. They answered a lot of questions that we couldn’t, simply because we didn’t have time enough and a lot of questions remaining.”
Vettel goes into Sunday’s Grand Prix with a great opportunity to reclaim the championship lead from Lewis Hamilton after the Mercedes driver – three points ahead - could only qualify in fifth. However, the German said he would simply focus on his own race.
“We have a long race and a lot of things can happen. Certainly grid position is king or crucial, but still it’s a long race. The fact that our car was good this evening I think is promising for tomorrow.
“I’m confident. For the others? Max is next to me, so first of all I guess I’m racing him and then Daniel and so on and so forth, so not too bothered where other people are. I think there is a long race ahead and there are a lot of things we need to get right, so we should focus on ourselves.”