SILVERSTONE, United Kingdom, June 29th, 2013 (AFP) - Sebastian Vettel described Lewis Hamilton's pole performance as 'phenomenal' on Saturday after being outpaced by the Englishman in qualifying for Sunday's British Grand Prix.
The 25-year-old German said the Mercedes man had found something beyond his reach as he scorched to his 28th pole and left the triple world champion down in third.
Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg was second fastest as the Brackley-based team made the most of their local proximity to Silverstone by locking out the front row of the grid.
"Either Lewis has found a shortcut or he has something special around here," said Vettel.
"It was a phenomenal lap, not in our reach today.
"I had a good lap and was close with Mark. We did what we could. Certainly we are not giving away anything consciously or on purpose...
"They are bloody quick in qualifying. We are not too bad, but they are in a different world on a Saturday afternoon."
Despite Hamilton's protests that Red Bull retain a performance advantage in race trim, Vettel said he was not going to take the idea of a Mercedes race day slump for granted.
"I think P3 was our maximum in qualifying but for tomorrow who knows - they are also getting better. It helps the more time we spend on the tyres - let's leave it there..."
Vettel's dig at the Mercedes team's perceived advantage following last month's 'secret' tyre test with Pirelli in Spain went without any serious response from his rivals.
But he did express surprise at Ferrari's limp performance and seeing two-time champion Fernando Alonso down in 10th.
"It is not good news for him and I'm sure he wanted to be higher up," said Vettel.
"It's a bit of a surprise, they have been very competitive here for the last few years.
"I'm not too interested in the results today, in the race lots of things can happen. In terms of race pace and tyre wear they will be stronger tomorrow and if everything goes to plan, they will finish higher up than 10th. Anything else will be a surprise."
Despite Vettel's protestations, Hamilton reiterated that he felt it would be difficult to stay ahead of the Red Bulls in Sunday's race.
He said: "I think undoubtedly it's going to be tough for us to keep Sebastian behind... Our long-run pace wasn't as bad as we've seen in the past.
"I'm hoping with the temperatures and a bit of luck we can nurture the tyres to get a good result. I will be pushing, giving it my all tomorrow, to try to finish up ahead."