Vettel lost a chunk of the right-hand side of his wing going into the first corner when the fast starting Max Verstappen cut ahead of him. But though the damage was apparent from outside the car, Vettel said he was unaware of it from inside the cockpit, and Ferrari’s subsequent failure to notice it meant the German missed the chance to pit for a replacement under the early safety car.
“With the damage in the beginning it was not ideal,” Vettel told UK broadcaster Channel 4. “It was bad that we didn’t spot it – I had a little bit of a feel [that there was damage] out of Turn 6 and then the safety car came, but I wasn’t sure because it was the first lap of the race and it was very windy, so I thought it might have been a gust and the first lap the tyres are not there.
“We should have spotted [the damage] and got a free pit stop. In the end we did it when everybody was back at pace and we had to catch up for a couple of laps.”
Vettel emerged from that early stop in last place, but over the remainder of the race he charged up the order, passing the Force Indias of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez in the closing stages to move up to fourth place before narrowly missing out on challenging Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull for third.
“Coming back to that group at the end of the race was fun,” admitted Vettel. “With the two Force Indias it was quite difficult – they were very quick down the straights, and then when you have this phenomenon of cars behind each other all giving each other a tow and you’re at the back end, it’s not easy to create something.
“Eventually we did, but I wanted that podium. We didn’t get it, so I’ll take fourth.”
With Lewis Hamilton taking victory in Canada, Vettel’s championship lead was reduced to 12 points, but despite qualifying on the front row alongside the Briton, Vettel said he wasn’t dwelling on the fact that he could have scored better.
“I think you judge what happens at the time,” he said. “It’s clear that with the damage that we had unless there was trouble in front or we got extremely lucky with safety cars that it would be difficult.
“But in the end you look what you have in front of you. I was very busy for most of the race which I enjoyed, which was fun, it was good racing. There were some manoeuvres where I nearly wanted to close my eyes – but ultimately I think the team and the car deserved more. The pace was there.
“It’s a bit difficult to read – I think Mercedes were very strong in the race, but it’s also a different story when you can control the race, the pace, the tyres. I was pushing flat out and when you chase other cars you lose quite a lot of grip, then you’re sliding, so a different race for us today.”
Canada was the first race this season where Vettel had missed the podium. Prior to Montreal the Ferrari driver had finished either first or second in every Grand Prix in 2017.