Sebastian Vettel believes Ferrari’s pace was a match for Max Verstappen’s Red Bull Honda in the Spanish Grand Prix, but that a podium got away after his unsuccessful attempt to take the lead at the start.
Lewis Hamilton pulled even with polesitter Valtteri Bottas on the run to Turn 1, and Vettel moved to the left, making it three wide with the Mercedes pair as he held the outside line. An attempt to outbrake both into the first corner, though, saw Vettel lock up and nearly miss Turn 2, damaging his tires. The flat spots hampered him in the first part of the race, and he eventually finished fourth, behind Verstappen who slipped through as Vettel fought to recover.
“It was a bit of a mixed bag,” Vettel explained after the race. “I had a flat spot after the first corner where I knew it would be my only chance to really try and do something against Mercedes. It wasn’t quite there, though, and then after that [the flat spot] compromised my own race, so probably that’s where we lost the podium.
“To the end I think we had decent speed once we were in free air and past that first set of tires.”
“I wouldn’t say it was going for a win,” Vettel continued, “but just trying to mix things up a bit. I think we had the same pace as Max, but obviously he benefitted in Turn 1 and then it was difficult to get [the position] back.
“I wanted to brake latest, which I think I did. But Valtteri was also quite late so I couldn’t really get in, and I couldn’t see him. I just saw that he was also braking quite late. If I just turned in, which now I think I could have managed, then he has nowhere to go and I will go the other way. So it didn’t work.
“In the end, I did Lewis a favor because I distracted Valtteri. It was clear that I could not win the race in the first corner, but I saw that there was something to try. I tried and it didn’t work, but I was hoping that I could mix things up a little bit for my sake and your sake.”
Ferrari employed team orders on a number of occasions during the race, telling Vettel to let teammate Charles Leclerc past in the first stint before returning the favor in the second with the two drivers on different strategies. Both calls came after a number of laps of battling, but Vettel says the team took the right approach in timing its decisions.
“I think we tried to work together. At the beginning, it wasn’t quite clear how slow I was going to be and how fast Charles was. In the second stint I wasn’t aware that we were on different strategies; once that was clear, I was obviously a lot faster at that point.
“But in the end we had the safety car, so it doesn’t matter.”