Sebastian Vettel continued to side-step questions about his inability to complete the traditional slowing down lap after Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix, amid suspicions that he may not have been able to complete the return to the pits.
The German led from start to finish in the fourth round of the 2012 world championship, but came under heavy pressure from Kimi Raikkonen
mid-race and was forced to defend before being able to stretch out a few seconds between himself and the Finn following their third and final pit-stops. As he crossed the line to claim his first victory since last year's Indian Grand Prix, however, Vettel was told to park his Red Bull
at the pit-lane exit.
He was not the only one to stop prematurely, as Chinese GP winner Nico Rosberg
was seen crawling over the line and only just able to keep Paul di Resta and Fernando Alonso
from passing him for fifth place, but the world champion refused to divulge that he may not have been in a position to win if the race had gone another lap or two.
"A couple of cars [stopped] - I had some company down there!" he grinned, "I think Nico stopped as well.
"We were probably surprised by the pace we went in the race. Obviously, these guys [Lotus], were pushing us, so we couldn't afford to lift, but it was enough. We knew how many laps there were from the start, so it was fine I guess. I think it's not the first time you saw [cars pull off after the flag]. It was a very quick race, the pace was extremely high, we had no time at any stage to rest, [and] a lot of pressure always from behind. So [we were] pushing hard - and, yeah, I was too exhausted to do the in-lap!"
Having been told that he did not have full use of his KERS while under pressure from Raikkonen - who had the advantage of being able to use DRS in his pursuit of the Red Bull, Vettel admitted that he had expected to see the Lotus come by him at some point.
"I thought exactly the same thing to be honest, when I saw that he was closing in, because we've seen that they are very quick on the straight all weekend," he explained, "I was particularly aware that, as soon as he got into the DRS zone, then it would be difficult to keep him behind. I think we could see that, one time, he was fairly close, he got the DRS and had more speed at the end of the straight than I had, [but] I think that you pick your optimum [set-up] for speed, downforce, top speed, and you pick whatever you believe is best. I think that, all in all, it was the right decision to do what we did.
"I used DRS once in the race, so I didn't use it too often, but, after that, I was happy that Kimi ran into the same problems with the tyres and I could get a little bit of a gap out of the last corner, which was enough to survive the straight. I think we also had a bit of head wind down the straight, and that's also an advantage for the car behind."
Of course, Vettel would only have been able to use DRS when he encountered backmarkers, and the German was quick to praise their actions despite briefly getting held up by one of the Caterhams.
"Yeah, [I got delayed] a little bit, but it's the same story for all of us," he accepted, "You know, you get there first and, depending on where you run into traffic, you might get held up - but the guys did a very good job all race long, all the guys we lapped. You're never going to get past without losing a little bit, but it's the same when Kimi or [third-placed] Romain [Grosjean] faces the traffic. They run into the same problems. I have to say, given the amount of marbles and dirt and sand and pickup off-line, they were very fair."