The 25-year-old German said the Mercedes man had found something beyond his reach as he scorched to his 28th pole and left the triple world champion down in third.
Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg was second fastest as the Brackley-based team made the most of their local proximity to Silverstone by locking out the front row of the grid.
“Either Lewis has found a shortcut or he has something special around here,” said Vettel. “It was a phenomenal lap, not in our reach today. I had a good lap and was close with Mark. They are bloody quick in qualifying. We are not too bad, but they are in a different world,” he said.
Despite Hamilton’s protests that Red Bull retain a performance advantage in race trim, Vettel said he was not going to take the idea of a Mercedes race day slump for granted.
Force India impress
Sahara Force India’s Paul di Resta and Adrian set the fifth and seventh fastest time at the Formula 1 British Grand Prix qualifying on Saturday.