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‘I really struggled’ – Poor first lap to blame for disappointing Russian GP, says Vettel

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SOCHI, RUSSIA - SEPTEMBER 27: Antonio Giovinazzi of Italy driving the (99) Alfa Romeo Racing C39

The Russian Grand Prix was a struggle for Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who came home out of the points in 13th, having failed to clear the Ferrari customer engined cars of Antonio Giovinazzi in the Alfa Romeo and Kevin Magnussen in the Haas in front of him. After the race the German blamed a tricky first lap in Sochi for sowing the seeds of his long afternoon.

Vettel had made life difficult by crashing in qualifying, leaving him P14 on the grid for Sunday’s race. Then at the start, and for the second race in succession, he had to take avoiding action to miss the spinning McLaren of Carlos Sainz, costing him a net position after Sainz and Lance Stroll’s Lap 1 retirements.

READ MORE: Who were the Winners and Losers of the 2020 Russian Grand Prix?

In 13th, and unable to make in-roads to the Alfa Romeo and Haas cars in front (apart from a dramatic pass on Romain Grosjean), the race was then a slog for Vettel, which Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto summed up succinctly in the team’s post-race press release as: “Sebastian was unable to get into the points, stuck in traffic in the key moments after the start” – a summary which Vettel appeared to largely agree with…

“It was a bit of a boring race,” he said. “I had not a great first lap and couldn’t really benefit from other people’s crashes and collisions, couldn’t go anywhere, so after that I was stuck. I couldn’t overtake, I really struggled. I think that would have changed the race but I didn’t manage it so not good enough.”

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Vettel narrowly avoided Sainz's crash at the race start

Vettel’s race contrasted with that of his team mate Charles Leclerc’s, who started four places ahead of Vettel but was up to eighth on Lap 1 – partly helped by contact with Lance Stroll that put the Canadian out of the race – before running a long first stint on the medium tyre that meant he was up to P2 when he pitted on Lap 28, with that strategy leaving the Monegasque an impressive sixth at the flag.

READ MORE: Leclerc says Ferrari have taken ‘good step forward’ after best result in five races

But Vettel – who pitted two laps later than his team mate, having run as high as seventh – believed that an earlier pit stop could have salvaged his race.

“Not that much,” said Vettel when asked what he would have done differently. “I would pit sooner because there was no point to stay out because we were quite slow.

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Sebastian Vettel 'got stuck in the slow group' in Russian GP

“I think obviously we got stuck in the slow group at the back of the field and then that was our race,” Vettel added. “I think the car was a little bit quicker, but I was struggling on my side to make the tyres last, so not great.”

Vettel has now taken just one point in the last four races compared to 12 for Leclerc, with the four-time champion sitting 13th in the drivers’ standings, 40 points down on his seventh-placed team mate.

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