However, he is now well set for a second consecutive race win, with 20 out of 27 races at the Circuit de Catalunya having been won by the man on pole.
Once again finishing first was not all it might be for Lewis Hamilton.
"It was important for me to get back into a good position with qualifying as it is a huge strength of mine so it is definitely important". He set a blistering lap on his first run in Q3 and with the pressure on promptly improved, taking pole with a time of 1min 16.173sec. Let's hope we have the same trust as in Baku where I could get everything out of the vehicle when I had to.
The defending four time world champion and current series leader broke the track lap record with a series of laps that culminated in him clocking 1:16.173, 0.040 seconds ahead of his team-mate Finn Valtteri Bottas as Mercedes locked up the front row of the grid.
The Briton has now been on pole in Spain for three years in a row and four of the last five.
Qualifying was later Saturday and there was a small chance of rain.
That was enough to head the Ferraris at that stage despite Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen running supersofts, while Daniel Ricciardo went fifth on mediums as the three top teams diverged on tyre compounds.
"If this weekend, we happen to get on top of the issues we have with the vehicle and start to be more consistent, then I will be a lot happier because I know then I can punch either at my weight or a little bit above".
"It's a good feeling, for sure, being a part of a race weekend after seven and a half years", said the Pole. "I looked at the tower and I saw my name didn't go up, but we expected Mercedes to be strong so we will see what happens tomorrow", Vettel said. Home-crowd favorites Carlos Sainz of Renault and Fernando Alonso of McLaren ended eighth and ninth, respectively. He was 0.132s behind Hamilton.
Raikkonen was on a new engine after a problem with the one he used on Friday.
"I think for the team, I think it has been a struggle", Hamilton said after qualifying.
Frenchman Romain Grosjean rounded out the top 10 for Haas.
Brendon Hartley missed out on qualifying as a result of his heavy crash at the end of FP3, meaning only four other drivers were going to be eliminated in the first part of qualifying. "We have been capitalising on circumstances like the outcome of the last race (in Baku), so I will take it for now but in the long term, the team can not rely on that".