Turkey podium gives Driver of the Day Vettel solace after 'difficult year' for Ferrari
There have now been 12 different drivers to stand on the podium this season, but you would have surprised many at the start of the year if you’d predicted the 12th to be Sebastian Vettel.
Vettel has had a tough 2020 campaign and entered this weekend’s race in Turkey with just 18 points to his name. But he almost doubled that tally with third place in Istanbul as he excelled in challenging conditions, something he says helped negate a perceived weakness on Saturday.
“It has been a difficult year,” Vettel said. “Qualifying has been the Achilles’ [Heel] this year. The race is obviously then largely defined by being stuck in the pack. I think it’s been a while that I’ve been racing in the midfield, it’s very, very close and even though you have a better pace sometimes you can’t really show it, so it’s tough…
“I think the conditions made the biggest difference. First of all, the slippery track, secondly the wet conditions. Looking forward to squeezing out anything there is to squeeze in the last races to finish as high up as possible for myself and also for the team.”
Those qualifying struggles did continue in Turkey as Vettel started from 11th on the grid, but he was up to third by the end of the first lap as he made a brilliant start.
“I think I just anticipated it to be very, very slippery off the line, made up a few places there and then I wasn’t one of the ones who tried everything into Turn 1. Obviously, there was a Renault that spun. I think everybody who was in that group was dragged to the outside and I could just snatch the inside line and make up a lot of ground.
“Then, I think it was good to have a clear track ahead and benefit from that at the beginning of the race. When we then pitted for inters I think it took a little bit too long to get into the groove. I lost a couple of positions later on then I was catching up the field again.
“I had a good battle at that stage with Lewis [Hamilton] for a couple of laps and we pitted again. The tyres then grained very quickly and I think at that part of the race maybe I was too conservative, otherwise it could have been even better – maybe less exciting at the end – but better in terms of positioning...”
The exciting conclusion to the race saw Vettel and team mate Charles Leclerc hunting down Sergio Perez for second, with Leclerc running wide as he tried to overtake the Racing Point three corners from the end, and Vettel sweeping through for P3. He finished just 0.327s off Perez at the line.
“Obviously happy I was able to lose the gap towards the end. Sergio was right on the limit, I don’t think he had anything, not even another lap left on his tyres so it was really close across the line. I was hoping to benefit on traction but he just saved it over the line.
“Charles had the mistake but it was all very close for the three of us. It was a fun afternoon.”