With conditions improving with every lap in Q3, Vettel was briefly fastest, but the Ferrari star failed to find as much time as his rivals on his final effort and eventually ended up fourth behind both Mercedes drivers and Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India.
“In the end it was a bit of a gamble - the later you ran the better,” said Vettel. “But equally I could and should have taken more risks.
“There was more pace in the car for sure. If you look at the gaps, that’s not down to the car performance. It mattered when you crossed the line and how much risk you took, so for sure I underperformed."
Vettel indicated that the speed at which track conditions improved had also taken him by surprise.
“The lap before some corners were damp; the last lap they had dried surprisingly quickly," he said. "You can’t see beyond the corner, you can’t hit pause, so you have to go with what you feel.
“With hindsight I could have carried more speed, braked later.”
An unscheduled gearbox change means Vettel drops five places on the grid from fourth to ninth, but despite this the German feels confident about his race chances - particularly as he’ll be starting on supersoft tyres, rather than the faster-wearing ultrasofts that Mercedes must start on.
“We have very good pace, and in a way it’s a shame that we had an unusual qualifying, as I was really interested to see where we were compared to the Mercedes in dry conditions. Tomorrow we start with a different compound, but as I say the car felt very good so lots to look forward to.”