Sebastian Vettel admitted he was lucky to see the chequered flag in the Chinese Grand Prix after the collision with Max Verstappen damaged his SF71-H, with the German seeing his winning run end with an eighth-place finish on Sunday.
Vettel initially held the lead of the race at the Shanghai International Circuit but found himself demoted to second when Valtteri Bottas pitted one lap earlier than him to perform a well-executed undercut, but the timing of the safety car was not ideal for either of the two race leaders.
Bottas and Vettel were just exiting the final turn when the call was made to bring out the safety car, while both Aston Martin Red Bull Racing drivers, Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, had enough time to retaliate and pit for fresh soft rubber, which would prove crucial over the final laps.
Ricciardo was the first to pass him for second, but Verstappen made a mess of his attempt, hitting the side of Vettel’s car at the hairpin, spinning them both around and causing heavy damage to the German’s car that ultimately saw him fall behind both Nico Hülkenberg and Fernando Alonso before the chequered flag.
“I was lucky to end my race,” said Vettel. “After a collision like the one I had, I think we could have even stopped there. Obviously, the lucky thing is that the car was still working, even if the balance was gone.
“We lost the lead after the pit stop and that was not ideal. We were quite sure we would have come out in front, but we didn’t. The timing of the Safety Car was bad for both me and Valtteri, because we had no chance to react.
“After that it was clear that Red Bull was faster and I think there was no point to resist much at the way Daniel approached from behind, and then the same happened with Max. I gave him some room just in case he had a bit of tyre lock-up, but then obviously he had a big one and that’s why we crashed.”
Verstappen was handed a time penalty for the incident that saw him classified fifth, and Vettel revealed the Dutchman came up to him to apologise straight after the race, but ultimately eighth place was not the outcome he or Scuderia Ferrari were after, particularly starting from pole.
“I think he realized he was wrong,” said Vettel. “We were both lucky to continue but it was not necessary. However, I appreciated the fact he came to me straightway because that’s the way to solve things like this, face to face.
“But obviously, this is not the result we were looking for.”