Sebastian Vettel admitted he would have liked to have finished higher than third in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but felt his Scuderia Ferrari team deserved the podium on Sunday.
A switch of strategy mid-race meant the German made inroads on those ahead of him in the closing laps as he ran the Supersoft tyre, and he passed team-mate Kimi Raikkonen and both Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing on his way to the podium.
“I think it was an important race for us today: in the final laps, I would have liked to gain two more positions, because the speed was there; but it was difficult to make the move because the car in front also benefited from a tow,” said Vettel.
“Nevertheless as a team we deserve this podium, and I hope it gives some momentum to all of us. It has been a tough year, with lots of up and downs, so I am really happy with this result.”
Vettel admitted the team under-performed during 2016 as a whole, but the German felt they showed good strength to improve towards the end of the year. Vettel felt that struggles during Saturday’s qualifying sessions meant that race days were more difficult than they should have been.
“About our global performance in 2016, I think we don’t need to find any story or invent something,” said Vettel. “I think we expected more; but after the first half, where we could have scored more points, I think we showed real strength by coming back.
“In the last couple of Grand Prix we had very good race pace, always enough to match Red Bull, and probably even a bit quicker: but that was not the case on Saturdays, and that made Sundays more difficult.
“Overall we showed the stamina that the team has. The spirit is unbroken, and I know that we will work hard, because Ferrari deserves to come back. All in all we learned a lot, we made a lot of progress.”
Vettel took the time to lay praise on Nico Rosberg, who clinched his maiden Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship on Sunday despite finishing second to Lewis Hamilton on the road, feeling his fellow German is a deserving champion.
“Today is Nico’s day, well done to him,” said Vettel. “I think you don’t win the Championship by luck, and it is a sign of respect to give him this. He is a deserving champion.”