MELBOURNE, Australia (Parlay Game) – It does not really bother Sebastian Vettel that he starts the Australian Grand Prix from the second row of the grid.
He had won the first match of the Formula 1 season the previous two years despite his departure behind Lewis Hamilton, who on Saturday extended his practice of winning pole position in Australia for a sixth consecutive year.
Vettel was more likely to regain his pace on the day of the Down Under race and aims to match two Michael Schumacher records on Sunday.
The four-time world champion is aiming for a third consecutive Australian GP title and a fourth place overall at Albert Park – the two records held by the F1 Grand Prix and his German compatriot.
"I'm not too worried. I know we have a great car, "said Vettel. "And we did it before here."
Ferrari Vettel and Charles Leclerc drivers seemed to be the fastest in the winter trials, but have so far underperformed the Hamilton Mercedes in all three practice sessions and qualifiers in Melbourne.
It took a circuit record in the final seconds of qualifying for Hamilton, five-time and reigning world champion, to beat his team-mate Valtteri Bottas in pole position.
Vettel skidded on the track in Q2 but quickly recovered to finish third in qualifying at 0.704 seconds. Leclerc moved from first place in the third quarter to fifth place in the third quarter, when Max Verstappen of Red Bull moved into fourth place between the two Ferraris.
Vettel joked about his small off-road rally but said it did not hurt the car: "Fortunately, the Q3 was good … did not affect our qualifications."
He said the Mercedes was faster than expected early in the season, but thinks the Ferrari will be faster. Mercedes has been the winner of the Drivers' Championship for five years, while Ferrari sometimes had the fastest cars. This is something Vettel wants to reverse in 2019.
"The gap is here today and was a surprise, but we are focusing on tomorrow and we do not worry about this gap at the moment," Vettel said. "Obviously, Mercedes is the favorite … (but) with 58 laps, we have time to read where we are."