Sebastian Vettel believes the change in temperature conditions for German Grand Prix qualifying cost him the advantage he had held over the field in final practice.
The Red Bull driver was favorite for pole after beating his rivals by 0.6 seconds on Saturday morning. But qualifying, on a hotter track and with a change of wind direction, proved much closer. Ultimately Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes beat Vettel to pole by a tenth of a second.
"I was very happy in FP3 this morning, happy with the car, we didn't change much, but this afternoon I was struggling to bring it together, especially in the first part of the track," Vettel said. "It was quite windy, we had wind from the back and the track was a bit warmer.
"The car wasn't bad, it wasn't awful through first sector, but the time didn't come. I tried to do the best I could in the next two sectors but it was not enough to get Lewis today."
Vettel still believes Red Bull has made big gains on Mercedes' qualifying pace.
"We were much closer than we were in Silverstone," he said. "We made some progress and we have confidence for tomorrow."
Mark Webber put the second Red Bull third on the grid and agreed with Vettel's assessment.
"It is very, very sensitive out there," he said. "We might have lost a bit in the first sector. It was tricky to find the rhythm we had in FP3, there was a shift in track temperature and it pulled us together a bit. On the long runs we are in good shape and in a good place to put pressure on [Mercedes] tomorrow."