Shortly after the restart on lap 6, Vettel started complaining of his steering pulling to one side, prompting Ferrari to tell him to stay off the kerbs, and the issue persisted to varying degrees throughout the Grand Prix.
“I am over the moon,” said a relieved Vettel of his second Budapest victory. “It was a very difficult race - maybe it didn't look like it, but I had my hands full.
“Three, four laps after the safety car I don't know why the steering started to go sideways and it seemed to get worse. I stayed off the kerbs and tried to save the car - it wasn't easy.”
The issue could be clearly seen from onboard shots of Vettel’s car, with his steering pointing left as he navigated the start-finish straight.
“It's a weird feeling,” he said. “In right handers it's sort of okay, but in left handers you have to get used to it. So after a couple of laps it's okay, but if it keeps changing all the time it's difficult because you have to go further than you want - and than you think in your head.”
The issue meant that Vettel was unable to put any real air between himself and team mate Kimi Raikkonen, who shadowed him for much of the race, ultimately coming home runner-up, with less than a second splitting the two red cars.
“It didn't do any favours to Kimi obviously, who could go faster,” admitted Vettel. “I didn't have the pace. Towards the end it did come back a bit – I had a couple of laps where I could breathe a bit, had a bit of a cushion – but I had to really stay focused the whole race.”
Vettel also thanked one particular fan, who had been spurring him on as the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas got closer and closer in the second half of the race.
“There was one guy out of the chicane, every lap he was thumbs-up, thumbs-up, keeping us going so it was really great,” commented Vettel, who said he had one eye on the fans “and one on the steering - because it wasn't straight!”
The result means that having arrived in Hungary with a slender one-point championship lead over Hamilton, Vettel now heads his rival by 14 going into the traditional F1 summer break.