The three-time world champion qualified down in fourth behind pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel and his Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen in Saturday’s qualifying session, with his own Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas lining up third.
It was Ferrari’s first front row lock-out since 2008, and ended champions Mercedes’ run of 18 pole positions.
“I just wasn’t quick enough today,” said
“I’m still up there in the mix. It was all in the last sector – I was losing half a second. So, there’s some work to do. That’s where all the mistakes happen.
“It was a real struggle, getting tyre temperature and really maximising and utilising the tyres.
“It was an issue yesterday, and we made some changes and it worked, but then too much, maybe, because that last sector was a struggle.”
The Briton, who is seven points behind four-time champion Vettel in the championship this year after three races, added he expected a “real race” on Sunday.
“Ferrari are quickest here today and generally during race trim runs, so it’ll be interesting to see where we stand,” he said.