When Daniel Riccardo reported a loss of power early in Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix, and Sebastian Vettel suddenly honed menacingly in on the back of the Red Bull, it seemed the race had fallen into Ferrari’s hands.
But despite having more than half the race to find a way past his opponent – who according to Christian Horner was down on power to the tune of 25% - Vettel wasn’t able to come close to mustering a move for the lead.
So what went wrong? According to the man himself, a combination of things.
“I saw [Ricciardo’s] issue and I was also told by radio and that’s when I started to push. But as soon as I got too close, or closer, then I struggled to stay there and never got in range, especially at the exit of the tunnel.
“Obviously if you get closer it doesn't help with your tyres. In some corners you don't really need power and Ricciardo was quicker than us. He was always able to open the gap and I was never really there. He could keep his pace and I think that perhaps it could have been worse for us if he hadn't had some issues.
“Unfortunately, there weren't many chances to do something different. I think it was tricky for us to make the tyres work the right way.
“Mercedes were in a similar position to us, even though they were on the harder, supposed-to-be-more-robust tyre, and Daniel said he had no problems at all. So obviously, it made it difficult in the low-speed corners where you don’t need power, you need grip to stay with him and then benefit from the more power that we had clearly in the straights, but we couldn’t.”
When the Virtual Safety Car was deployed following Charles Leclerc’s crash with Brendon Hartley, it looked like Vettel might get one final opportunity to launch an attack on Ricciardo. But in the event his hopes were dashed once more.
“I don’t know what happened there,” explained Vettel. “I had poor warm up, so it was tricky and the tyres were not in great shape, so I didn’t want to risk anything, because it’s easy to have a lock-up. I had one, which was a bit of a warning!
“But I don’t know why I lost so much time initially. I had the McLaren [of Stoffel Vandoorne] between us but both of them all of a sudden were gone so I don’t know, maybe my VSC ended later than theirs. We need to have a look why I lost so much time, whether it was just warm up. It was a shame, otherwise, it’s nice to finish at least putting pressure on until the end.”
In the end, Ricciardo beat Vettel across the line by 7.3s to bring his tally of wins to the season to two – the same number as the German and championship Lewis Hamilton. Vettel, however, was able to gain some ground on Hamilton in the standings, cutting the Briton's lead from 17 to 14 points.