Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel’s believes he may have won Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix had he had just one more lap in which to close down and attack Mercedes race winner Valtteri Bottas, after the pair finished just 0.6s apart at the Red Bull Ring.
While polesitter Bottas clearly had the upper hand in the first half of the race, his pace dropped in the second as he picked up a tyre blister, setting up a grandstand finish as the hard-charging Vettel did all he could to hunt the Finn down.
“The first part of the race I was struggling a bit to feel the car, but then as soon as we put on the supersoft tyre the car came alive and I had really good pace,” explained the German.
“I was catching little by little and he obviously struggled, so the last laps it was getting really close. I think I had Perez (to pass), which cost me a bit of time with lapped cars.
“I think I needed one more lap because he was really struggling to get up the hill. Obviously I wanted to win, but nevertheless a good result.
“Obviously if you have the feeling you need one more lap or a couple more laps then it’s a bit of shame if you run out of laps, but I’m sure if it’s the other way around you are quite happy - I’ve been in the other position where I was quite happy that the chequered flag came out.”
Despite his disappointment at missing out on victory, Vettel said the race emphasised just how little there is between Ferrari and Mercedes at the moment in terms of performance.
“Thinking about today the pace, again, it was a match, I think we were racing for the same tenths. In the first stint Valtteri was quicker, no doubt he was pulling away, opening a significant gap which allowed him obviously to come in later.
“Second stint he had fresher tyres, he ran into a problem – but overall in the second stint overall for us it was better in terms of balance. The first stint, probably for Valtteri was better. So I don’t think you could say that they were quicker on the ultrasoft, we were quicker on the supersoft. I think it was very close and probably he was happier with the car in the first stint than I was and the other way around in the second stint.
“We started from zero, he had eight metres advantage when the lights went off, and then we finished half a second behind each other. In the end, I think we had the same pace.”
With his chief title rival Lewis Hamilton unable to finish higher than fourth, Vettel now has a 20-point lead over the Briton at the top of the driver standings with Bottas a further 15 points back. However, Ferrari dropped further behind the Silver Arrows in the constructors' stakes with Vettel’s team mate Kimi Raikkonen finishing fifth.