Sebastian Vettel has applauded Lewis Hamilton for an “exceptional” performance in qualifying after the British driver produced a stunning lap in the final stages of Q3 to snatch pole from the defending world champion by 0.038 seconds.
Vettel had looked set to claim his fourth pole of the season after opening up a 0.8 second lead during the final stage of qualifying, but Hamilton responded in emphatic style and Vettel could not fault the Briton’s performance.
“I think Lewis did an exceptional job today if you look at the gap to Nico [Rosberg],” Vettel explained in the post-qualifying press conference. “You have to be fair and respect that. I’m not arguing with that.”
In terms of his own performance, Vettel does not believe that he could have done much more to stop Hamilton from taking pole.
“There wasn’t much missing, I was pretty happy with both laps. Maybe on the second try I was losing out a little bit in the middle sector.
“But it’s stupid now to sit here and say maybe we should’ve done this or that.”
Unusually, Vettel’s quickest time came during his first run which meant that he was expected to beat Hamilton’s time during his second flying lap. Instead, the Red Bull driver failed to improve and he will start 2nd tomorrow as a result. Hamilton has already admitted that Mercedes may struggle on the long runs, potentially handing the advantage back to Red Bull on Sunday.