Vettel: Qualifying struggles unrelated to morning crash
When Sebastian Vettel crashed his Ferrari in Free Practice 3 and Charles Leclerc led the session, it seemed clear which Ferrari driver was set for a better Saturday. But an apparent Ferrari strategy error in qualifying saw Leclerc drop out in Q1, leaving Vettel as the sole Scuderia representative in Q3 – though the German was unable to get in the mix for pole after a scruffy session.
Ironically, it was Vettel who had put Leclerc out of qualifying, having left it until the last minute to try and pull himself out of Q1 after hitting the wall in the Swimming Pool complex midway through the session. His last-gasp Q1 effort left him top of that segment – and it seemed for a moment that Mercedes domination in Q3 might not be the formality that it had appeared after Thursday’s running.
Sorry. I was trying everything I had
But on his final run in Q3, Vettel was pushing hard when he clanged the barriers once again, this time on the outside of Tabac. The hit didn’t appear to do any serious damage – but it did mean he couldn’t improve on his fourth place, over seven-tenths off Mercedes’ pace, just as he had been in Barcelona two weeks ago, as Lewis Hamilton claimed pole. “Sorry,” said Vettel over team radio at the end of the session. “I was trying everything I had.”
When he returned to the pits and faced the media, meanwhile, it was the tyres that Vettel once again singled out as the factor that had prevented him going for his second ever pole in Monaco.
“We struggled to get the tyres to work, and then you just don’t get the feel that you want and you need,” he said. “Especially the front tyres for us didn’t work today so we need to dig deeper. I mean, we are already trying to understand as much as we can.
“I think this morning Charles was quite happy, and the few laps I had as well, but this afternoon wasn’t quite like that. For now, obviously, it is what it is we need to accept, even if we don’t want to but we go from there.”
Asked if his crash in FP3, which saw him plough into the Sainte Devote barriers and damage the front of his car, had contributed to his errors and lack of pace in qualifying, Vettel replied: “I think this morning has nothing to do with that, in fairness.
“I don’t want to shift the blame. I think in the afternoon, certainly the first two laps you need to rebuild and get in the rhythm, but then again I’ve been many times around here, so that’s not the problem.”
Ferrari now face an uphill struggle once again to unseat Mercedes on Sunday, with Vettel starting on the second row alongside the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, while Leclerc will aim to work his way through the field from P15 - following a grid penalty for Antonio Giovinazzi - on a track where it’s notoriously difficult to overtake. 2019, it would seem, continues to fail to pan out the way Ferrari had planned…