Ferrari's change of direction may have been influenced by newcomer James Allison, who was responsible for the highly competitive Lotus cars of recent seasons.
The team’s third place nonetheless represents a sign of continuity at the top that has no equal.
Fernando Alonso came third at the Carlos Pace circuit. Felipe Massa ended his final race in a Prancing Horse car in seventh position.
Only four drivers have claimed pole position this year – Vettel, his team mate Mark Webber and the Mercedes line-up of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.
Qualifying in Sao Paulo for the Brazilian Grand Prix was delayed due to the flooded areas on the Interlagos circuit.
Fernando Alonso ended up third for Scuderia Ferrari with team-mate Felipe Massa ninth to give him a fifth row start in his home race tomorrow.
Jacques Villeneuve thinks Fernando Alonso would have better results driving Lotus instead of Ferrari.
Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa completed 47 laps, 23 for the former and one more for the latter.
"But I am proud of this runner-up because I did it with the seventh or eighth car on the grid." - Fernando Alonso
The Spanish Ferrari man cannot be overtaken now.
The Spaniard is in sixth place on the grid, starting alongside the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton.
Pirelli chairman Marco Tronchetti Provera: "If they (Ferrari) didn't use the tyres properly, it's not our fault."