Sebastian Vettel said on Saturday he peaked too early as his bid to claim pole position in the Singapore Grand Prix and lift a frustrating season was thwarted in the closing seconds of qualifying.
Vettel's last win came more than a year ago at the 2018 Belgian GP and an error-strewn campaign has seen the four-time world champion outperformed by his rookie Ferrari team mate Charles Leclerc, who also won the last two races in Belgium and Italy.
The German looked to be back on track with a storming lap around the Marina Bay Street Circuit in the final qualifying session, but he was forced to abandon his second attempt and could do little to prevent pole-winner Leclerc and championship leader Lewis Hamilton bumping him to third for Sunday's race.
"It started off very good but the last run not so... I lost a little bit of time in the first sector and was playing catch up from there. I tried to take more risks throughout the lap and it didn't pay off," Vettel told reporters.
"The last lap just didn't come together but overall it's a good result for us -- first and third for the team at a track where we were not expected to be strong. I am happy with that but not so happy with the end of qualifying. We'll see what happens tomorrow."
Ferrari's fortunes have changed dramatically since the sport returned from its summer break at the start of September, yet while the victories at the power-friendly circuits of Spa and Monza were largely expected, the technical 23-turn Singapore layout was considered a better fit for Mercedes and Red Bull.
Vettel, however, felt those forecasts were misleading and the team's poor display at the Hungaroring circuit, a similar course to Singapore and one where Ferrari finished more than a minute adrift, was due to the set up of the car failing to unleash its full potential.
"We didn't have such a great balance at Hungary. Some corners were good but we lost a lot on others. This weekend we are not losing anything and the balance is far better here," he added.
"Yesterday we suffered with a lack of front grip and as the temperatures dropped tonight it seemed to come together quicker. We were able to extract a bit more from the car today, so hopefully we can do the same tomorrow."
With seven rounds remaining, Hamilton leads the title race by 63 points from his Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas with Red Bull's Max Verstappen in third, 99 points adrift, and Leclerc and Vettel in fourth and fifth respectively more than 100 points behind.