Sebastian Vettel was far from surprised by Mercedes’ return to the front of the field in qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix on Saturday, saying its strength was “expected”.
Vettel dominated proceedings in Singapore last weekend by claiming pole position and a lights-to-flag race win as Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton struggled for pace all weekend.
Heading to Suzuka this weekend, Mercedes believed that its issues were purely symptomatic of the Marina Bay Street Circuit, although technical boss Paddy Lowe still remained very wary of the threat posed by Ferrari.
In qualifying on Saturday, Rosberg and Hamilton resumed normal service by locking out the front row of the grid for Mercedes, marking its 13th pole position of the year.
Speaking to NBCSN after the session, Vettel said that he wasn’t at all surprised by Mercedes bouncing back, and that Ferrari had done all it could to qualify fourth and sixth at Suzuka.
“I think it was a surprise to see Mercedes struggling so much in Singapore – for the 132nd time it has been said this weekend…” Vettel wryly said.
“But yeah, obviously they are very strong here as expected. No surprises.
“Obviously it was a tricky session for myself, didn’t really get going in the beginning, and in the end I think we can be reasonably happy. Third was the maximum, we missed that by one position.
“Tomorrow I think it will be a tight race between ourselves, Red Bull, Williams, so we need to be alert.”
The drivers entered Saturday’s qualifying session with just one hour of dry running under their belts after Friday’s practice runs were both washed out by rain, but Vettel does not think this will cause too many issues for the race on Sunday.
“Yeah we didn’t get much running, we got a bit this morning,” Vettel said. “I think we should be fine in the race. We’ve trimmed the car also towards the race, let’s see. It’s difficult to impossible to predict at this stage.”
The Japanese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 12:30am ET on Sunday.