Sebastian Vettel knew he wouldn’t be able to finish higher than second in the Hungarian Grand Prix from the moment a slow pit stop dropped him behind Valtteri Bottas.
Ferrari split its strategies at the start of the race, with Vettel — starting fourth — on the soft compound tire compared to the two Mercedes drivers and Kimi Raikkonen on ultrasofts. Bottas pit in response to an early stop from Raikkonen, leaving Vettel clear air that allowed him to open up a gap big enough to emerge in second place behind Lewis Hamilton once he made his own stop. However, a slow stop dropped him back behind Bottas, and Vettel knew he wouldn’t be able to challenge Hamilton for victory from that point on.
“I think something was stuck at the rear [in the pits] but it was tough race,” Vettel said. “We were a little bit out of position for the speed that we had. I think we could go with Lewis today in terms of race pace.
“I had a good start on the harder tire, which was good, and I was in third. Then I think we did well. I think then it was a bit tricky knowing when to come in. And then obviously we had a little bit of an issue at the pit stop, and we came out behind Valtteri and then I realized right away I couldn’t get him because his tires were still too fresh, so I was sitting back and waiting and trying to line everything up for the last 10 laps and it worked.
“His tires were getting worse and worse and I knew obviously how long those yellow tires last from the first stint that I had, so I was quite confident I could get him at the end. Obviously P2 is not what we really wanted this weekend but I think it’s the maximum we could get today.”
When overtaking Bottas, Vettel passed the Mercedes at Turn 1 but the Finn then tried to force his way down the inside at Turn 2, resulting in contact.
“I was surprised to be honest. I was already ahead and I was just trying to brake so that I covered the inside line and not running too deep. Then I got a hit from behind, so I wasn’t sure what was going on. Then I was looking in the mirrors and I saw that Valtteri was there with Kimi and obviously after that I was clear and I was lucky nothing was broken and we could carry on.”