In the final minutes of qualifying, Vettel aborted his ultimate run, claiming on the radio to his team that his car "just got worse".
"We started well, the confidence was there, and then we seemed to struggled," Vettel explained.
"We just didn't extract the grip that was there. Unlike everyone else we didn't get any quicker. I think we should have, could have done a better job. It is what it is, so we have to focus on tomorrow."
Despite the disappointment, Vettel does not believe the Scuderia's current level of performance lags its main rivals, notably Mercedes and Red Bull, by much.
"I don't think we are as far behind as it looks, I think we had a crack at pole today but not if we don't extract the best out of ourselves.
"The car is quick, no doubt, and we started well this morning. Thursday we were on the wrong foot but nothing special that the people in front have done that we could not have done – but we didn't do it, so there is the problem."