In qualifying yesterday. Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes were wary of Ferrari's straight-line speed going into this race weekend, and that brilliant lap that secured him pole position was just a touch unexpected, particularly after last year's P5 start.
"Great job everyone, what a weekend", said Hamilton on team radio immediately after winning at the Marina Bay Street Circuit for the second year running. The race is like to be an one-stopper so what Vettel needs to do is be within two seconds of Hamilton when the pit window opens, which is expected to be around Lap 20 or slightly beyond.
Hamilton's controlled drive from a pole position won brilliantly on Saturday was helped by the latest in a series of questionable strategy calls from Ferrari. "I think we had the ingredients and we didn't put it together", added Vettel, who will start behind Hamilton and Red Bull's Max Verstappen.
"I had a different race to the other guys and I wasn't convinced we could make it to the end, but pitting was no option because you lose too much time so you just focus on making it home".
In indomitable form, there is now a relentless, intimidating quality to Lewis Hamilton's driving that seems to simply brook no dissent. "I believe I did my best".
Needing to get 28 seconds ahead of his rivals for another stop, Vettel could not even muster an attempt to get beyond them and settled for a podium finish in a race he likely needed to win.
"I don't think about Sebastian, I just think about being the best I can be".
"Not ideal, we wanted to get pole", Vettel said.
"We had a very strong package, both Kimi and myself looked very competitive throughout practice", noted Vettel. "So it was really quite a monumental moment for us as a team". However, he crashed heading into the first turn, taking out Verstappen, Raikkonen, and Fernando Alonso with him. "If it works then it's great; today it didn't work", Vettel explained.
Ferrari's Vettel, who is 30 points behind Hamilton in the title race with seven races to go, was disappointed with his best effort of 1:36.628.
The German has often made good starts this season and his British Grand Prix victory in July was set up by passing Hamilton on the run to the first corner. "As you go through the year, learn more and more about the vehicle".
"If it was going to be enough to pole I am not so sure", he said, "but at least it was going to be closer than three-tenths".
Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff says that Lewis Hamilton's Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix victory "feels significant" with his team finally understanding their 2018 vehicle.
"For us it was a bit of a messy qualifying", he said.