'I'm happy' insists Vettel
World Champion relaxed despite qualifying 11th
By Mike Wise in Shanghai. Last Updated: 14/04/12 3:26pm
Sebastian Vettel: Starts 11th in the Chinese Grand Prix
Sebastian Vettel insisted he is happy with his RB8 despite failing to reach the final qualifying session for the first time in three seasons at the Chinese Grand Prix on Saturday.
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The defending World Champion, who has not started a race outside the top 10 since the 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix, will line up 11th on the grid four places behind team-mate Mark Webber.
Vettel seemed relaxed despite his poor performance and even suggested his car handled better than it had during the third practice session held earlier in the day.
"I was pretty happy with the car in qualifying. I think we did a step forward compared to the morning. Whereas in the morning the balance was pretty open and it had a lot of oversteer, in the afternoon I was happier," he said.
"I think doing the same lap time three times in qualifying showed this was more or less it. So it was not as if there was a tenth or another couple of tenths on the table. So I don't think we missed out, it was just not quick enough at the time."
Vettel's time in session two was around three tenths slower than that of Webber, who went quickest overall after both drivers had made two runs.
Each driver has opted to use a different exhaust configuration this weekend, with Vettel reverting back to the version which the team used on their RB8 chassis when it was launched.
Webber, in contrast, is sticking with the newer version which features an exhaust pointing outboard as Red Bull attempt to harness as much of the blown diffuser effect as they can under this season's tighter rules.
Vettel prefers the balance of the older version and insisted he remains happy with it, despite qualifying behind his team-mate.
"Don't get me wrong but I don't want to blame today's result on any sort of packaging or not. Mark was fast in qualifying. I was happy with the car yesterday, that's why I decided to keep that package," he said.
"If I would have been convinced yesterday then we would have changed it. But I was convinced of the current package, so it doesn't feel right now to sit here and blame the car or the packaging.
"At this stage I don't think there is any individual one to blame. I had a good session, I was happy with my lap. It was maybe not the best lap of my life but a good lap - I was happy with it for qualifying, it was just not quick enough.
"The car felt pretty good, so we were just not able to find the last couple of tenths."
As for the race itself, Vettel said he his car's pace over longer runs still placed him in "good shape".
However, despite Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher lining up first and second on the grid, he reckoned McLaren are best of all.
"Surely today the pace of Mercedes was a surprise: Nico had a very, very strong lap at the end and outqualified everyone by half a second. So we'll see how they will do in the race. I think McLaren is still the favourite for race pace," Vettel said.
He added: "I think, being completely honest, we can look at ourselves and be happy with the work that we have done. As in, I think we got everything out of the car that there was today. I think we did a good job in qualifying.
"Surely the result isn't good enough - we need to improve and work on that. But for now I think you need to be honest with yourself.
"It's not as if we've been lazy and we didn't care really."