But Vettel's world championship hopes suffered a huge blow when his Ferrari failed to set a time in the first qualifying session, meaning he will start last.
Ferrari's Friday display and Mercedes' struggles will be welcomed by Vettel who trails Hamilton by 28 points in the overall standings with six races left.
"Well, I think it would have been more hard if I had lost the auto somewhere in the race, and it's obviously different but with a collision at the start like that, I think. that was when we had to go to the stewards", said Vettel.
Kuala Lumpur:Formula One is losing one of its toughest races with the departure of Malaysia from the calendar after this weekend's grand prix, triple world champion Lewis Hamilton said yesterday.
"I'm sorry what happened to Sebastian but we somehow turned it around, it is a real surprise to be up here with these guys". Not a great day as you can imagine but the response from the whole team has been very positive.
"Straight away the vehicle felt good and I saw Lewis was struggling a bit with traction. of course he has more to lose than me in the championship so I went for it in turn one", Verstappen said of his overtake on lap four.
Ferrari had already made the fourth change on Saturday, when an electronic malfunction was detected late into the third practice session.
Alonso told Sky Sports F1 that if Vettel wants to remain in the title race then the German can not make anymore mistakes. You can compare Malaysia a little bit to Silverstone, where we have been very good. It happened, there's not much you can do, and therefore not much point in trying to look at it again and again.
Championship leader Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas both lost time after off-track excursions and ended up sixth and seventh respectively, while Fernando Alonso was an impressive fifth. As I said, if you would choose, you want always to be ahead.
"I think it's OK".
Vettel saved Ferrari's blushes but, as if Ferrari's luck could not get any worse, Williams driver Lance Stroll smashed into the side of his vehicle on the warm-down lap, cutting it nearly in half.
"With a collision at the start like that, I think we all three... after the race, we had to face the stewards. But we go tomorrow".
"To be honest, I don't know if we're going to miss it".
Verstappen and Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo traded fastest times throughout the session, ultimately finishing P1 and P2 respectively in the final classification.
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