Sebastian Vettel was left rueing his conservative approach to Turn 1 during his final attempt in qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix, saying he "chickened out" and cost himself pole.
Vettel was on provisional pole, just 0.058s ahead of Valtteri Bottas, after the preliminary runs in Q1, but lost time through the first sector during his late Q3 effort. Vettel failed to improve on that attempt and moments later Bottas crossed the line 0.03s quicker than the original benchmark, meaning he snatched pole position for Sunday's race.
With such slender margins separating first and second on the grid Vettel refused to blame anyone but himself.
When asked about how he felt starting second for the grand prix, he said: "It's alright, it's not so much about tomorrow, it's about today. For tomorrow I think it's fine but I'd love to be ahead, when it's this close.
"I think I chickened out a little bit under brakes on the final run into Turn 1 and lost a bit too much time. From there, the lap was fine, but I knew I had a bit left in the final sector, the final corner, which I got, but by then I was already a bit much behind."
The fight for pole had been blown wide open by newly-crowned 2017 champion Lewis Hamilton spinning out of Q1, meaning he will start from the rear of the grid. Though Mercedes has looked strong all weekend, and topped all three practice sessions ahead of qualifying, Vettel is confident he can challenge Bottas for the win.
"No, it was not that bad. I was happy with my first lap, so. I think it was OK. Three-hundreths you always think there is some place you could have got that. For tomorrow our long run looked good, in particular against Valtteri, so let's see what happens tomorrow."