SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Sebastian Vettel’s last season with Red Bull failed to improve Saturday, with the four-time defending F1 champion enduring another poor qualifying session at the inaugural Russian Grand Prix.
Vettel failed to make it into the final of the three qualifying sessions but will start 10th because of another driver’s penalty.
“I wasn’t comfortable in the car today. It was very difficult,” Vettel said.
“I think we took a step back from this morning (practice) and we expected the rear to be a lot stronger and the track to pick up more than it did. The car felt nervous, so I couldn’t take the speed into the corners, I lost the rear many times around the lap and therefore wasn’t quick enough,” the German said.
Vettel has announced that he is leaving Red Bull at the end of the season. He has not said which team he will join, but all speculation has pointed to Ferrari.
Teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who has had a more successful season, will start sixth, also benefiting from the five-place penalty for Kevin Magnussen of McLaren.
Red Bull is set to lose the constructors title to Mercedes in Sunday’s race. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are starting from the front row of the grid and a victory by either of them will give Mercedes its first title.
Ricciardo is the only one who could still challenge Hamilton and Lewis for the title but his chances are remote, at best. He is 73 points behind Hamilton, who leads Rosberg by 10 points, with 125 points still at stake. Vettel is 127 points behind Hamilton.
“It’s tough to get a lap together around here, for a new track it’s really high in grip but at the same time it’s hard to read the grip, Ricciardo said.
“It’s not such a natural feeling that it gives us behind the wheel, but it’s fun and a new challenge. We were trying to get the fronts in and get grip out of them and on the last lap I lost the rear. We’re better off than we were yesterday, but I was hoping for more than seventh.”
Ricciardo has eclipsed Vettel in his first season with Red Bull, having won three races to Vettel’s none.
But he’s realistic about his chances.
Ricciardo said there’s “not much more we can get out of it” if Hamilton wins Sunday’s race.
“It won’t stop us from trying to do our best every race, but it’s looking like it’s becoming a bit tricky for me,” he said.
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