Kimi Raikkonen said a combination of traffic and issues with tyre warm-up forced him to settle for sixth on the grid for the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Raikkonen has been the fastest Ferrari for much of the weekend in Sepang and found himself fourth early on in Q3, two places up on Vettel, albeit behind both Red Bulls. Neither Ferrari driver maximised their second attempts but Vettel managed to do enough to climb above Raikkonen as the pair had to settle for locking out the third row.
Explaining how qualifying unfolded, Raikkonen said: "It was just a bit tricky on the first lap in Q1, the first lap in Q2 was pretty OK, but it was a bit difficult to get the tyres to work there. Apart from that I had quite a smooth running.
"It was just on the last lap [of Q3] I had traffic on the out lap and then struggled with the tyres in the first corners. I tried to get time back, but just kept losing more time, so it was not the greatest end, but that's how it goes sometimes."
When asked if he could have out-qualified either Red Bull without those issues in Q3, he said:" I don't know. It's not possible to say and the end result is what it is. We can always say afterwards, 'this and that', but these are the facts and I think we struggled a bit to make the tyres work.
"It's a bit cooler than it was in the morning or yesterday and it will be a different story tomorrow. It's not the easiest weekend to get the tyres to where we want them to be, even when it's hot you'd think it should be quite easy but it has been quite tricky."
The Finn thinks the timing of qualifying, which takes place later than FP2 on Friday afternoon or the race on Sunday, had something to do with Ferrari's struggle to beat Red Bull.
"Obviously today we ran later than yesterday and also later than the race time, so it's one of those things with the new surface to say which way it's going to go and which tyre will be the best. I think there's little difference between the teams but we'll make some plans today and tomorrow and then see how the race starts. Hopefully we make the right choices [on strategy]."