Sebastian Vettel believes that there will be a good opportunity to leapfrog Red Bull duo Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen on the first lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, because their tyre strategy leaves them "vulnerable".
Both Ricciardo and Verstappen will be starting the race on the supersoft tyre, which will likely provide less grip and need more time to warm-up than the ultrasoft that those around them are running.
And that has left Vettel – who qualified fifth – eyeing a chance for him and teammate Kimi Raikkonen to surge forwards in the race and slot in behind the leading Mercedes cars.
"It will be interesting to see what happens. It will make them a bit vulnerable on the first lap. And maybe we can maybe capitalise on that.
“For the race it should be close. We are usually a bit stronger on Sunday than Saturday so target is to aim for the podium.”
Raikkonen feels, however, that the opportunity to get Red Bull may have to wait until after the first corner because the run to Turn 1 from the start is too short.
“I don’t think there is an awful lot of difference between the two tyres,” said the Finn. “It is more important to make a good start. There should be a small difference but the distance is quite short to make a good start.”
For Verstappen, who slipped to sixth in qualifying after a lock-up at Turn 11 on his final run in Q3, the opening lap will be about not losing places rather than moving forward.
“Well, I’ve got the Ferraris in front of me anyway,” he said. “They will be ahead I guess as they are normally very good at the start. Then the pace from the cars behind is quite a bit slower.
“For me, the most important thing is to keep position at the start and then try to go forward.”