Sebastian Vettel believes Scuderia Ferrari had the second fastest car at Suzuka behind the Mercedes AMG PETRONAS of Nico Rosberg.
Vettel says he was faster than Max Verstappen but Red Bull Racing’s strategy calls allowed the Dutchman to stay ahead and finish on the podium, while Vettel had to settle for fourth place.
“We had a very good start and made good progress in the first two laps, passing [Daniel] Ricciardo and [Sergio] 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.”
The blue flags played a huge part in the battle with Lewis Hamilton holding the German driver up and allowing the Mercedes to overtake the Ferrari.
“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.”
A competitive strategy allowed Vettel to challenge Hamilton after his second stop but the soft tyre degraded faster.
“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 pit wall as well as in the car, I was keen to go for this strategy so to extend the second stint.”
With Verstappen finishing on the podium, Vettel dropped down to sixth in the Championship level on points with the Red Bull driver but with his victory in Spain, it allowed the Dutchman to leapfrog the Ferrari.