Sebastian Vettel apologized to Valtteri Bottas for the collision on the opening lap of the French Grand Prix that left the Finn only able to finish seventh.
Running side-by-side toward Turn 1, Bottas attempted to sweep around the outside of Vettel, who was unable to try and outbrake the Mercedes as he had Lewis Hamilton directly ahead of him. Vettel then locked up and ran into the left rear corner of Bottas’ car, giving him a puncture and breaking the front wing on the Ferrari.
After receiving a five-second time penalty for the incident, Vettel climbed back through the field to finish fifth ahead of Bottas in seventh, and says he apologized for the collision after the race.
“My start was very good, but then I had no place to go,” Vettel said. “I tried to get out of it, but in Turn 1 obviously we got very tight. I was very close to Lewis in front and Valtteri tried to obviously get his position back. He was under pressure from Max [Verstappen], I think, as far as I saw as well. And then I had no grip, lost the car, couldn’t open and disappear, because there were people and obviously Valtteri was the one that I hit.
“In the end, there wasn’t that much I could have done different. Just the wrong place. Obviously what you don’t see is that I lose a lot of grip and I saw it and I was aware of the two cars running around the outside trying to get their position on me because I was stuck. But I couldn’t slow down more than I did and obviously lost the car and hit Valtteri, so I guess the rule is causing a collision and that’s what I did because I lost the car.
“But was it intentional? Certainly not, because it could as well have been the end of the race for me. Obviously for Valtteri it was very bad because it affected his race and he had nothing to do with it, so I went to him after the race.
“Given the situation, how tight it was, I think we were both lucky in a way to be able to continue like I said. Little bit different and [his suspension might have failed]. From there, obviously we had a good recovery but it wasn’t the race we wanted.”
Elaborating on his approach to the corner, Vettel says he was only marginally too late on the brakes and would not have run wide had there not been a car on his outside.
“It was not the line, I think I wasn’t braking where I was braking for qualifying. I knew I was on the inside and I was trying to get out of it. As soon as I saw I was stuck, but it obviously wasn’t enough so I think on my own, there’s no problem at all that I make the corner, but obviously with a car right in front and the car also next to you, you lose a lot of grip. Obviously it caught me out.
“In the end, the way I look at it with hindsight, I would have liked to have a worse start, because then it would have been more straightforward, I wouldn’t be in that position. I haven’t seen it yet so I will look at it again, but from the inside it didn’t feel or didn’t appear that there was a lot I could have done differently. I tried to get out of it.
“Obviously you don’t hit the brakes 200 meters before the corner just because you think it could be a bad spot to be in, you still try to be competitive. But to be honest, I wasn’t attacking first, I was aware that Valtteri, and even I saw Max, would have a run around the outside because I’m stuck. But obviously it wasn’t enough but it’s just one of those things that sometimes goes wrong.”