Sebastian Vettel defended both Ferrari’s strategy and his move at the start against Lewis Hamilton after losing out to the championship leader in the Mexican Grand Prix.
Hamilton managed to make a one-stop strategy work despite pitting with 48 laps still remaining, a move that gave him track position over Vettel who made his first stop much later. In hindsight, Vettel believes Ferrari could have covered Hamilton to win the race but that it was a much riskier strategy to pit so early and one that wasn’t a realistic option at the time.
“After the race it’s always easy to say but I think we were confident that we split the cars, we covered both options,” Vettel said, referring to Charles Leclerc leading early on but finishing fourth on a two-stop strategy. “Obviously in Lewis’ shoes and Mercedes’ shoes they had nothing to lose, so they might as well from that early to make it. And Lewis did well managing his tires in the second stint, and just cruising up to the point where we arrived.
“It worked finally, but neither them nor us expected the tires to last that long. We saw a lot of graining on Friday and so did (Mercedes) actually. They saw a bit more than us, so it was a bit of a surprise that today we didn’t have any and that made the difference. You might as well try, so it’s a brave call. In the end if it works you look great, if it doesn’t then you’ve tried.
“I think if it was so straightforward for them – the thinking of fitting the hard so early and easily making it to the end – then they should have pitted Valtteri (Bottas) as well, but you can see that obviously he stayed out with me, long, to try and make sure that you make the one stop work and you don’t fall off any cliffs.
“As I said, we tried everything but ultimately… maybe we could have been a bit braver, but then it’s a lot of unknown and you don’t want to do anything stupid at that point. And I think you could see that in the race trim we were just missing a little bit of pace. Valtteri was closing in at the end of the first stint. Lewis was fairly easily closing in during the first stint as well. So I think it’s also fair to say that they were just a bit quicker than us.”
At the start of the race, Hamilton was pulling alongside Vettel on the run to Turn 1 as Vettel moved left, not leaving a full car’s width and causing Hamilton to lift. The eventual race-winner kept referencing the move – albeit in a light-hearted manner – post-race, and Vettel says he was unaware where Hamilton was.
“I didn’t see him,” Vettel admitted. “He came after the race as well and asked, but I had no intention to push him or anything. I obviously got off (the line) and I tried to get in Charles’ tow and I checked the mirrors on the right and the mirrors on the left and that’s when I saw Lewis and then, you know, I tried to go right but before that point I didn’t see him. We see quite well in the mirrors, but there is still obviously an angle that you can’t see.”