Sebastian Vettel says he "chickened out" in qualifying at the Brazilian Grand Prix after Valtteri Bottas claimed pole on Saturday.
World champion Lewis Hamilton crashed out without posting a time at Interlagos, but Bottas ensured there would be a Mercedes at the front of the grid courtesy of a track record lap of one minute and 8.322 seconds.
Vettel had to settle for second spot ahead of Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen and the German was left to reflect on a missed opportunity.
The four-time world champion, who has a 15-point advantage over Bottas in the battle to finish as runner-up to Hamilton, said: "I'd love to be ahead. I chickened out a little bit with the brakes.
"The lap was fine [but] I knew I had a bit left. I was already too slow by that point. I think it was okay but not great. For tomorrow let's see what happens."
Bottas will start on pole for the third time in his career after edging out Vettel by only 0.038 seconds and the Finn is braced for a battle.
"I feel good," said Bottas. "Still a bit shaky but it's a good feeling. It was just a nice lap. It was so close between Sebastian all throughout qualifying and sometimes with Kimi as well. I got a good lap in at the end.
"Obviously, Lewis was out in the beginning which was a shame for us but I'm happy that I could stand up for us.
"It's really good to start from the pole here. We have a good car and it's going to be a close race still with Ferrari but I'd rather start from pole than, for example, P3 so I'm looking forward to tomorrow."