Ferrari took a risk on their strategy today, which didn’t ultimately pay off for Sebastian Vettel, but he did have the pace to challenge at the front this weekend.
Vettel, who had made a great start, was up to third at the end of the first lap. Given the poor start of Lewis Hamilton who went as low as eighth, it was likely the British driver was going to make a comeback, just as Nico Rosberg did at the last Grand Prix in Malaysia to claim his spot on the podium from the back of the field.
Taking a risk on strategy, they went for a two stopper which left him out longer on the second stint in not too dissimilar way to Hamilton. However, as we saw throughout the race, he was hampered by lapped drivers who were finding it difficult to get out of the way quickly with the Ferrari losing time. Switching to the soft tyre at the end of the race rather than the hard didn’t help either close that gap back up again, ultimately finishing outside the podium positions.
The German said after the race: “We had a very good start and made good progress in the first two laps, passing Ricciardo and Perez, then we were faster than Verstappen.
“I think today we had the second fastest car. So it was a question of time, but obviously Max came in as soon as he could to maintain track position, which worked well for him.
“We tried to go on the softer tire in the end, which initially we thought would work well, but then we had too much degradation and we were falling off this group. It is always easy to criticize, and I am sure there are many ‘experts’ that knew better, but on the pitwall as well as in the car, I was keen to go for this strategy so to extend the second stint.
“It’s a fact I lost big chunks of time with the blue flags. I always got the lapped cars right in sector one, when they can’t move, so I was losing a lot of time, and there’s probably where I lost track position to Lewis, who always seemed to clear the lapped cars in the straight. But then the pace wouldn’t have probably been enough to challenge for the podium.”