Sebastian Vettel insists he did not expect Kimi Raikkonen to be given a team order to let him past to try and attack Max Verstappen in the Austrian Grand Prix.
Verstappen was leading in the closing laps at the Red Bull Ring with Raikkonen and Vettel both closing in following the retirements of both Mercedes drivers and Daniel Ricciardo. With his main title rival Lewis Hamilton out of the race, Vettel had the opportunity to gain significant points over the defending champion, and in finishing third behind Verstappen and Raikkonen took the lead in the standings by one point.
Asked if he expected to be allowed to move ahead of Raikkonen in the closing stages, Vettel replied: “No. Why?
“I was trying to hunt both of them down. I think Kimi was pushing as hard as he could, I was pushing as hard as I could, I think the both of us were catching but not enough. Obviously I was further back on lap one, I lost with the pit stop, so I arguably had to recover more than others but I’m fine with that.
“We had great speed, the difference was made with the tires, which worked well, the strategy worked well. But I think Max won the race because he deserved to. He did very well, managing his tires to the end, he didn’t have any mistakes by my understanding, I didn’t see him going off, so that’s a strong performance from him.
“I think Kimi did everything he could, he had one lock-up I believe where he lost a position to Daniel, but he recovered after that and I did my bit to come back. Obviously I was saving tires, pushing at the same time, you never know.
“You’re a bit blind because the race is long and there was more than 50 laps to go on the same tires, so I tried to do all that and I think most of it I got more or less right but I think it could also have been a bit better without the plus three from the start but that’s what it was.”
Vettel originally qualified in third place but had to start from sixth after getting a grid penalty for impeding Carlos Sainz on Saturday, and the German says it is the qualifying performances that need addressing given the performance level in race trim.
“I’m a bit mixed to be honest. I think that was a race we could have won with the circumstances, we had really good pace. Arguably a match to Mercedes in the race, but we need to make sure that we keep pushing and improving because in qualifying we are falling back a little bit at the moment so there’s plenty for us to do.”