F1: Low downforce gamble pays off for Vettel in qualifying

Sebastian Vettel's low downforce setup paid off when the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps dried out entering Q3 Saturday afternoon.

Sebastian Vettel led the chase of Mercedes in Spa today as he took third place at a track where Red Bull expected to struggle badly on the straights.

However, by running a low downforce spec, Vettel managed to find performance over the lap, despite the tricky wet conditions. He was 2.126s off pole man Nico Rosberg.

“I think it would be nice to be a bit further up but obviously the gap is quite big,” said the German. “I think it was the best we could do for today. I think it was a tricky qualifying, especially Q2 looked very tight for us. I tried to stay out on the same set of tires. It started to rain heavier, so I was quite confident that the track won’t get quicker and I wanted to save that extra set for Q3.

“It was quite tight. I got the lap in in the end because the circuit did pick up and in Q3 I was able to use both sets of tires. It was obviously very tight behind the Mercedes. It was tricky out there, especially on low downforce, especially through Eau Rouge, so I had a couple of moments. But it was a good challenge and for sure happy with third.”

Asked to elaborate on how it felt to drive with less downforce he said: “We knew it would be even trickier obviously when qualifying is wet, qualifying was wet, so we can confirm it was trickier – but the reason behind it is fairly simple: we know that we are down on power, obviously Mercedes can run a lot more wing level and they have a very strong car this year, you have to admit, so they have a lot of downforce but they can still take that wing onto the straights.

“If we do that I think we are similar in the corners but quite a long way off on the straights and therefore vulnerable in the race. So, I think that’s the reasoning behind it, and in the wet probably it hurt us a bit more, but hopefully tomorrow we’ll be closer in terms of race pace and closer to them than in the last couple of races.”