Vettel salvages third at Monza despite damage

The Italian Grand Prix saw Sebastian Vettel celebrating on the podium at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza on Sunday. But in truth, Ferrari had been hoping for better than third place at their home event.

Significantly, Vettel was over half a minute off the pace of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas at the chequered flag. Part of that was due to damage to the Ferrari after Vettel ran off the track late in the race. However, Mercedes had been far ahead long before that.

“It’s clear they were quicker than us today,” Vettel conceded afterwards. “I’m not happy but I think we can accept the result. We did what we could and that’s what it’s about.

“The podium I think makes up for everything this weekend,” he added.

Vettel’s race had been compromised from the start by a poor grid position, following a cold and wet qualifying on Saturday. Penalties for Red Bull helped claw back two places, but Vettel and his Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonen still started from the third row.

It meant Vettel had to take care of Williams’ Lance Stroll and Force India’s Esteban Ocon before he could even think about hunting down the Mercedes drivers.

“We lost a lot obviously due to the qualifying position,” Vettel said. “The opening laps took a while to make progress. By the time we were behind [the Mercedes] I think we were already six, seven, eight seconds behind them.

“From then onwards I think we lost time. We didn’t have the pace,” he continued. “It wasn’t so bad at the end of the stint on very used tyres. It’s not a surprise because we’ve seen that in the past.”

Vettel revealed that his car had suffered damage when he ran off the track on lap 40, putting him further behind the two Mercedes and at risk of being caught by Daniel Ricciardo in the charging Red Bull behind.

  • Lewis Hamilton breezes to easy victory at Monza

“It wasn’t that straightforward to be honest,” he said of the final stages of the race. “After my off on lap 40, something was wrong with the car. The car was pulling to one side and I didn’t trust the car under braking anymore.

“I just tried to control the gap. I couldn’t push,” he recalled. “Obviously braking here is immensely important, and it’s a nobrainer then that you’re losing some.

“But I had a gap and I just tried to keep it at the end, and it worked, so that’s the most important [thing].”

The result of the Italian Grand Prix means that Vettel loses the lead of the drivers championship for the first time this season. He’s now three points behind Lewis Hamilton in the standings. But Vettel said that he’s not concerned about that right now.

“Still a long way to go,” he insisted. “Points here and there, it’s natural that sometimes you take some more, sometimes some less.

“The most important time you want to lead the championship is after the last race,” he noted. “Up to then, we need to do our best every single time and then we count the points that we have.

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“I like Singapore, I like the tracks that are coming up now,” he added. Singapore is one of the circuits where – on paper at least – Ferrari have the edge on their rivals.

“On paper you can say this, you can say that before the weekend,” he responded, clearly not happy with that view. “It’s a good thing that races and overall championships are decided on the track!

“That’s what we want. That’s what we like. I think it makes it challenging and exciting as well.

“Singapore, we’ll see what happens there.”

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