Sebastian Vettel admitted being disappointed at finishing off the podium at Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix.
The reigning world champion finished just two tenths of a second behind Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, who took the third podium spot in Shanghai, after a late charge on the quicker, soft tyre.
Vettel surprised many with his qualifying strategy. Unusually, the Red Bull car didn’t look like a pole position contender after a fairly uninspiring free practice on Friday. And knowing the soft option tyre wouldn’t last long in race conditions, Vettel opted to qualify on the harder tyre, compromising his grid position meaning he’d start ninth.
But with the front-runners having to change their tyres early in the race, Vettel saw himself running as high as second. But he lost time behind Nico Hulkenberg’s Sauber - a car on the same strategy - towards the end of his first stint, allowing Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso to take advantage and build a lead.
Changing onto the softer option tyre with just five laps to go, Vettel mounted a charge which saw him bridge the 13 second gap to Hamilton in just three laps. But it came too late as he crossed the line just 0.2 seconds behind for fourth place.
“It’s a shame, I’m a little bit disappointed not to get on the podium because there’s nothing for fourth but there’s a trophy for third,” Vettel said. “It was good fun at the end closing a 13 second gap but I think if you had to look in to where the time was probably lost it was at the beginning of our race where I got stuck a little bit in traffic and lost a little bit too much ground.
“If third is there to grab and you just miss by a couple of corners then it’s a little bit disappointing.”
Vettel did admit, however, that he didn’t think he was able to beat Alonso to win today’s race.
“I think Fernando was too quick and if you look at the strategy they started in clean air and did most of the race in clean air whereas I was a bit held up at the beginning. I’m not blaming anything or anyone, it’s just how it is when you start a little bit further back.”
Vettel still heads the way in the championship standings, leading Australian Grand Prix winner Kimi Raikkonen by three points.