Sebastian Vettel admitted that he just didn't have the pace to match his rivals after finishing fourth in the German Grand Prix – marking the first time this season that the defending champion hasn't finished inside the top two.
Having failed to qualify on the front row for the first time in 2011 during qualifying, the Red Bull driver lost time with a spin at turn ten early on and failed to feature in the race for victory as he ran fifth for much of the race.
Quick work from Red Bull in the pits allowed him to jump ahead of Felipe Massa when the pair pitted for the medium compound tyres at the start of the final lap, but Vettel insisted he couldn't have done more and called on his team to respond to the defeat in Hungary next weekend.
“It was tough, a difficult race,” he said. “In the beginning, it didn't feel so bad but I made a mistake, which bought me back to fifth and from there it was a tough recovery. I think fourth was the maximum we could achieve today – it's not satisfying, but you have to accept that others were quicker today. I didn't feel good all weekend and didn't have the pace that Mark did in the car.
“The pit-stop at the end was fantastic. You come into the pit lane behind the other car and into your box and you can't wait to leave as soon as the boys have changed the wheels. As I came out it was nice to see the Ferrari still stationary – that was all down to the boys, they did a very good job. Both Felipe and I were battling for a lot of the race and we were both on the edge.
“We had a problem mid-race with the brakes, but we managed it well, so we can be happy with the recovery we had from that. Hungary is the next race, which is normally a good track for us, so we'll see, but we have homework to do. McLaren and Ferrari were very quick in the race and we need to come back to the pace they have.”
Team boss Christian Horner was also quick to praise the mechanics on pit road for the last gasp stop which handed Vettel extra championship points to ensure he leaves Germany with a 77 point lead – just three down on the lead he held going into the weekend.
“Sebastian had a spin early on and flat spotted the tyres quite badly, so we went as far as we dare with him and then he spent a lot of the race looking at Massa's gearbox,” he said. “It all came down to a race in the pit lane and our boys did a phenomenal job, nailed a fantastic pit stop and leap-frogged the Ferrari. There was a bit of excitement there and I think, as Sebastian said on the radio, he owes P4 to them today.”