Sebastian Vettel believes that Scuderia Ferrari “maximised” its result at the Spanish Grand Prix, despite finishing with both cars off of the podium for the second time in the 2019 Formula 1 season.
Vettel finished nine seconds adrift of race victor Lewis Hamilton, as Mercedes AMG Motorsport cruised to a record-extending fifth consecutive 1-2 finish to start a season.
The gap was brought down by a lengthy Safety Car period, triggered by an incident involving Lando Norris and Lance Stroll at Turn 2 on lap 44 of 66 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
With team-mate Charles Leclerc finishing directly behind the German in fifth, the pair fall outside the top three in the Drivers’ Championship and Ferrari now sits 96 points behind Mercedes in the Constructors’ standings.
Vettel attempted to take the lead into the first corner at the start, but locked up his front right tyre in trying to go round the outside of Valtteri Bottas – resulting in a lost place to Red Bull Racing‘s Max Verstappen and a flat spotted tyre that caused problems throughout his first stint.
“Today we more or less maximised our result,” said Vettel.
“It was obviously a disappointing race for us as we were hoping to be a lot faster.
“After the start, I had a go at the cars in front, but flat spotted a tyre and compromised my own race.
“You don’t win the race at the first corner, I know, but I thought at least we can mix things up with Mercedes and have a bit more of a fight with everybody.”
The four-time world champion was embroiled in a race-long battle with Leclerc, the German was asked to let the latter through in the early stages of the race after failing to increase his speed due to the damaged tyre.
However, with Ferrari choosing to put Leclerc on hard compound tyres at his pitstop compared to Vettel’s mediums, the favour was repaid later in the race.
He explained that the pair “tried not to interfere” with each other’s race and wanted to work together to catch Verstappen and the final spot on the podium.
Despite the growing gap to rival Mercedes in the championship, Vettel refused to concede defeat so early in the season and believes that Ferrari can only get stronger from its current position.
“Charles and I tried not to interfere with each other and work together as much as we could,” Vettel added.
“It’s still very early in the season and we are taking it race by race, but I think we can only come back from where we are now as the whole team is working flat out.”