Vettel: The race is open
World Champion off the qualifying pace again
By Mike Wise in Monaco. Last Updated: 27/05/12 8:08am
Sebastian Vettel is hoping a "different kind of race" in Monaco will salvage his weekend after qualifying only 10th on Saturday.
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As was the case in Spain a fortnight ago, the World Champion opted not to set a time in the final session having decided that pole position was out of reach.
Vettel, who currently shares the lead in the Drivers' Championship with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, of course knows that a good qualifying position is even more vital in Monaco than in Barcelona, given the strictly limited overtaking opportunities at the 3.340km street circuit.
The Red Bull driver finished sixth at the Circuit de Catalunya having started seventh and assessing his prospects for Sunday, Vettel seemed more hopeful than expectant - admitting that he is relying on factors such as rain or a safety car intervention to make headway.
Promoted to ninth after Williams' Pastor Maldonado picked up a 10-place grid penalty, Vettel said: "The race is open tomorrow, anything can happen. Obviously, we'd love to have qualified at the front but after Q1 then in particular Q2 we saw maybe pole position was not really in reach for us, for myself, so that's why we decided to go the other way and we'll see what we can do tomorrow.
"Some people say it might rain tomorrow and that could make a big difference. But nevertheless I think we have the possibilities to start on the hard tyres and have a different kind of race. Usually it's all about track position: we start from P9. Obviously we have some cars ahead but it could be different after the first stops so we'll see what we can do.
"You never know what could happen in the race, the might be a safety car, you might be able to catch up or lose all the advantage you have at that stage compared to someone else. So it really depends."
Vettel said he had been happy with his car right up until qualifying when set-up changes had far from the desired effect.
"This morning I was very happy to be honest and I think we were quite competitive. We were going quicker than this afternoon with less effort, but we decided to change the car a little bit and it turned out to make a big difference. I think we ended up worse than we thought we would," he said.
Out of the hunt for pole, Q3 instead saw Vettel on track on the soft compound prime tyre rather than the supersoft option. As a result, he now has a choice of tyre with which to start the race.
The 24-year-old also said he ran a different set-up to team-mate Mark Webber, who starts from pole position given the five-place penalty incurred by fastest qualifier Michael Schumacher in Barcelona.
Vettel added: "I think we ran different all weekend so it's not fair to say 'OK, that's the reason why'. But I think the split was bigger in qualifying than it was this morning."
He also admitted the changes left his car feeling a particular handful in slow corners: "The fast corners were okay. But there are mostly slow corners around here so it doesn't help."
Vettel won in Monaco last year after running a one-stop strategy and fending off Alonso and McLaren's Jenson Button - his cause admittedly helped by a late red flag.
Contrasting the situation 12 months on, he added: "It's Monaco, it's difficult to overtake which could help you maybe - it did help me last year a lot - or it could hurt you depending on what you're trying to achieve."