Vettel: It was a great strategy
13 October 2013
Sebastian Vettel has praised his Red Bull team after they gave him the opportunity to come from third on the road to claim victory in the Japanese Grand Prix.
Despite starting from the outside of the front row, the three-time world champion made a poor getaway and dropped behind both polesitter Mark Webber and the fast-starting Romain Grosjean. His afternoon could have got worse had contact between his front wing and Lewis Hamilton's right rear Pirelli not just resulted in one-way damage to the Briton's car, but Vettel survived to follow instructions from the pit-wall that effectively transformed his race into a fifth successive win.
Urged to back off and conserve his rubber, the German played the game to plan, content to trust his crew as they crafted a strategy that saw him run longer than either Grosjean or, more importantly, Webber. With the Australian subsequently being switched to a three-stop tactic, it was left for Vettel to dispense with Grosjean for second and then pick up the baton when Webber pitted for the final time.
Once out in front, he looked comfortable and, with his team-mate struggling to deal with the Lotus in a late-race charge on the softer Pirelli tyre, a seven-second victory was assured.
“It was a very rewarding win today, a great feeling,” Vettel enthused, “I love this track and it's just fantastic to win here.
“We started to go longer than Romain and Mark in the first stint, [and] took into account that we were a second a lap slower for two or three laps compared to them in order to get the range in the next stint. We then tried to extend that to really put them under pressure towards the end.
“Obviously, after the first pit-stop, Mark decided to go for the three-stop, which wasn't far off [being the best tactic]. Before the race, I think we targeted more towards two stops, but the tyres weren't holding up as well as we thought.
“I really tried to manage the gaps in the beginning of the stint and then close the gap, which worked brilliantly, especially with Romain. The end of the second stint I was just on his tail when he pitted, able to stay out another couple of laps and then I had more or less fresh tyres when I was able to pass him, so, yeah, [it was] a great strategy.”
Team principal Christian Horner admitted that the race had turned on strategy based on the way the two drivers had been using their tyres.
“A massive result for the team to achieve a one-two in Japan,” the Briton noted, “We split the strategies between a three-stop for Mark and a two-stop for Seb, based on the expected tyre lives on the two cars, and both drivers managed to make it work, navigating their way past Grosjean in particularly brave moves down into turn one.”
Vettel is now 90 points ahead of anyone else in the drivers' standings, with a maximum of 100 remaining up for grabs in the last four races of the year. Although he refuses to crown himself just yet, he admits that it is gradually getting closer.
“The championship is the big target of course, but the season is very long still and the best way to wrap it up is not to think about it,” he suggested, “I'm happy to go home for a bit now and to relax before we go out to India. That's an impressive country and I'm looking forward to racing there in a couple of weeks.”