‘As soon as I left the pits, I knew it was the wrong decision’ – Vettel on his disastrous mid-race switch to slicks
Damp, but crucially heavy rain-less, conditions at the Turkish Grand Prix led many drivers to weigh up a mid-race move from intermediate tyres to slicks. But only one driver, Sebastian Vettel, would be brave enough to try it – and as he admitted after the race, it was definitely the wrong move.
Vettel was running in the P10 position he’d started in when he opted to pit on Lap 36 for medium tyres – reasoning that, with his and many of his fellow competitors’ intermediate tyres having worn to practically a slick on the slowly-drying Istanbul Park surface, the change to full slicks could reap big rewards.
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But there followed scenes similar to the ultra low-grip running at the 2020 Turkish Grand Prix, as Vettel failed to generate sufficient heat in the tyres, the four-time champion running off track several times on his torturously slow out-lap before bringing his Aston Martin AMR21 straight back into the pits – and half-spinning in the pit entry – to trade his mediums for new inters.
“As soon as I left the pits, I knew it was the wrong decision,” admitted Vettel afterwards. “There was no grip and I could not make them work… I was really surprised how slowly the track improved and it was similar to last year because it just did not dry out.
“I couldn’t make them work so it was the wrong call,” he added. “I wanted to try because there wasn’t much rubber left on the inters, so I thought the drys were not any different, or probably a little bit better because the grip is higher. But I couldn’t break the tyre in and then couldn’t get any grip, so we lost the race today there.”
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Vettel would come home a disappointed P18 – ahead of only the two Haas runners. And with his point-less streak now extended to four races – as team mate Lance Stroll finished P9 – Vettel admitted that his gamble had probably cost him a top-10 finish in Turkey.
“I’m obviously disappointed, having made the wrong call,” said Vettel. “It was tempting to try, but just the wrong decision. So we lost, I think, the [chance] for points, maybe one or two – and in the end, we didn’t get any.”