Sebastian Vettel said Lewis Hamilton's astonishing pole lap at the Singapore Grand Prix was "not unbeatable" despite trailing the Mercedes by more than half a second. Hamilton clocked one minute 36.015 seconds at Marina Bay – more than three seconds quicker than last year's pole time.
Vettel entered the weekend as favourite for victory, but Hamilton delivered a lap he described as "magic", after going three seconds quicker than his nearest rival, Max Verstappen.
Vettel will start third, needing to avoid the kind of lap-one carnage that ended his race before the first turn a year ago.
Although Hamilton's performance was hailed as one of the very best of his 79 career poles, Vettel did not believe the time was unsurmountable.
"I think the gap is quite big - I think Lewis had a really good lap, so congrats to him for the lap, I'm sure it was a good one but I don't think it was unbeatable," Vettel said.
"For us today, the way we composed qualifying, I think it was difficult to get a rhythm. It didn't go the way we planned. I was struggling in Q1, Q2 and Q3.
"I think other people did a better job - that's including Lewis's lap as an individual but also them as a team. Obviously it's not what we wanted today, to get third.
"I don't want to take anything away from Lewis's lap and their efforts as a team; they did great, which is why they're on pole by quite a margin - that is not for debate.
"I think for us it's clear that we could've done better, and therefore we can't be happy. For sure here and there we could've done better, maybe with preparing the lap, the qualifying.
"But in the end I had the laps and obviously they were not strong enough and good enough to be near."