Sebastian Vettel believes he had no choice but to try to pass Valtteri Bottas for the lead after the safety car restart on Lap 48 despite the move losing him a podium finish.
Vettel had comfortably led the race from pole position until his first pit stop on lap 30, after which Mercedes chose to leave Bottas out in the lead on worn tires to give him the chance to make a free pit stop in the event of a safety car.
As luck would have it, a safety car was triggered on Lap 40 when Red Bull Racing teammates Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo collided with each other, allowing Bottas to switch to new ultrasoft tires and maintain his race lead.
The Finn managed the restart well, but Vettel slipstreamed his way alongside him to make a lunge into Turn 1. However, the German was unsighted with Bottas on his right-hand side and misjudged his braking. He locked up and ran wide, dropping places to Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen.
“Obviously it is easy to say not it was not the right move and it didn’t work,” he said. “I had to try. I tried and it didn’t work.
“I tried because I saw the gap. As I said, it didn’t work, but I tried. I got caught out with the bump with the front locking, but I don’t want to blame it on the bump with the front locking – in the end I am the captain on board.”
The damage to his front tires was bad enough that Force India’s Sergio Perez made short work of him on the next lap, but he recovered fourth place when Bottas retired from the race with a catastrophic puncture on Lap 49.
Finishing behind the victorious Hamilton meant Vettel also lost the lead in the drivers standings and now trails the Briton by three points, though Bottas’s retirement gifted Ferrari a four-point lead over Mercedes on the constructors table.
Vettel is unconcerned about the loss of points, however, seeing his team’s performance at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as largely positive.
“The way the race turned out today, for some people [it was] good and for some people [it was] bad,” he said. “Speak to Valtteri, I am pretty sure he is not happy because it was his win.
“I’m not worried because the car is there. We need to make sure it stays there.
“The rest of the race I think there are only positives. I think we had a strong race with good pace, and we controlled the race.”