He has to finish within eight points of Hamilton to stand any chance of keeping his championship chances alive, meaning he must improve to second on Sunday if Hamilton wins the race from his pole position starting position.
Lewis Hamilton's hopes of clinching his fifth Formula One world championship at the US Grand Prix were boosted on Friday when Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel was handed a three-place grid penalty for a practice infringement.
"I'm grateful to be in this era and with the technology that we have and seeing the cars advance".
The stewards' decision, made in wet conditions, had reduced Vettel's slim title chances according to Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene and means that he can not start on the front row of the grid for a race in which he knows another Mercedes one-two will give Hamilton his fifth drivers' title.
"I think it's the first time we had [the target lap] in the wet and in the wet the target is a lot slower, so literally I have to stop to 30kph or 40, 50 kph, to bring down the delta, which probably I should do next time".
Kimi Raikkonen will subsequently join Hamilton on the front row with the Briton's team-mate Valtteri Bottas third.
"I knew it was edgy between us on my last run, but my second lap was just that little bit better and that enabled me to pull it out". It was going to require solid laps.
Romain Grosjean of Haas also sympathised.
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"Sir Stirling would say you'd want to fall out if the car's going to crash: you hope that you get thrown out the auto".
"Unfortunately in Q1 I touched one of the larger kerbs pretty hard which resulted in a suspension failure". For sure, we got pretty close.
Mercedes did not appear to have the pace to beat Ferrari following the early phases at a cold and blustery Circuit of the Americas.
Kiwi Brendon Hartley will start from the back of the grid in tomorrow morning's Formula 1 United States Grand Prix, regardless of what he does in qualifying.
Vettel was backed up by other drivers as well, with Gasly's Toro Rosso team-mate Brendon Hartley sympathising on the grounds that slowing down to make the delta can be hard to manage safely.
Ferrari had looked the faster team in the second phase of qualifying, with Raikkonen top of the timesheets and Vettel second.
However, Vettel has been slapped with a three-place grid penalty for speeding during a red flag in practice. I'm definitely not thinking how I will feel here if I do the job, because I have got to do the job and that just adds more pressure and you don't need more pressure.