Aston Martin believes going in the “wrong direction” with its tire pressures sent Sebastian Vettel from third place in final practice to a Q1 elimination in qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix.
Vettel was in the top 10 throughout practice in Montreal, including the two dry sessions on Friday, but starred in the rainy FP3 on Saturday in particular.
The four-time Formula 1 world champion had high hopes given the track was still very wet at the start of qualifying, but instead found the AMR22 terribly uncompetitive as he and teammate Lance Stroll failed to go to Q2.
“What was that? So different from this morning, so different,” Vettel complained over the radio.
“I had no grip. I felt like the left rear was broken.
Aston Martin believe the cause of the problem was not having reduced tire pressure enough to compensate for the improved track conditions.
It was a legacy of struggling to get the temperature into the tires in FP3, when it was colder and wetter, but then suffering the opposite problem in Q1.
“We raced a lot this morning and the pressure wasn’t great,” said team manager Mike Krack.
“So we had to do a lot of laps to create pressure. And we thought the conditions were quite similar [for qualifying].
“But we had 20 cars on track in the afternoon, which probably dried out the track or made the track faster, much, much faster than we had anticipated.
“Then we ran out of time. You are there and you try to make the most of it.
“And if we had managed to get into Q2, we could have adjusted it in time or made other adjustments. But we ran out of time.”
Krack said Aston Martin had reduced the pressures but realized in hindsight “we should have gone a step further”.
“We tried this morning to try to learn as much as possible,” he said.
“But maybe it went a bit in the wrong direction.
“Because as I said this morning, we were really struggling to raise the temperature. And this afternoon, it was the exact opposite.
Vettel and Stroll will start 16th and 17th, moving up a place due to Charles Leclerc’s grid penalty, in what is a poor return to the most competitive weekend of the AMR22 season.
In addition to the lack of grip, Stroll was compromised by a yellow flag caused by Carlos Sainz in the first sector of his last lap in Q1.
The silver lining is that the car has continued to look more and more impressive since its major upgrade was introduced in Spain and Vettel said the reason he was so “pissed off” is that he felt that a “very good result” was on the cards, “even better than in the dry”.
“I’ve calmed down now,” Vettel said. “What’s the point of being pissed off now?”
“It’s one of those days where, in a wet session with just a car as you want it, you can make the difference.
“And I don’t know what went wrong. So we missed this opportunity.
Vettel arrived in Canada after his first consecutive points of the season.
He was optimistic he could keep racing, but wanted the team to be sure they understood his issues.
“It’s the same old game, we’re probably faster than the cars right in front of us, but we’re stuck with them for the start,” Vettel said.
“And hopefully we can get a good start and then we’ll see with the strategy.
“You can’t do something completely unexpected and come out first. But we have to be sharp.
“First of all we have to try to understand what happened, if there is really damage or if we did something wrong, I don’t know, in preparing the tires or the lap.
“And then turn the page and run hard. I still believe we can make progress and maybe score a point.