Sebastian Vettel admits that he was fortunate on several counts to be able to join Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo on the podium at the Canadian Grand Prix, but appeared quietly miffed that it was not him standing on the top step.
Prior to the 70-lap encounter at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, RBR team boss Christian Horner intimated that any visit to the podium would be unexpected but, by the end of a thrilling and unpredictable event, he had two drivers spraying champagne and sandwiching points leader Nico Rosberg in the top three.
Vettel appeared to have the upper hand in the opening phase of the race, and even ran as high as second after capitalising on a robust first corner involving the two Mercedes cars, but had no answer to Lewis Hamilton after the safety car and dropped further down the order when he made his first stop for fresh tyres.
Being held up by the two Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg, Vettel could only watch as the Mercedes pair disappeared out front and his group gradually came under pressure from the two Williams entries which had started immediately behind him.
“It was difficult to pass all the time,” he lamented, “Being stuck behind the Force India - I was stuck first behind Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel was stuck behind Perez - we were just not quick enough down the straights, and lacked power, which obviously didn't help our strategy.
“From lap 20 onwards, after the first stop, basically my race was over, [as] I couldn't get past until the end. Down the straights, the Mercedes-powered cars were too quick and, equally, we were in trouble defending to the Williams behind. I was asking the team to do something with strategy, which I think was possible. On the pit wall they have a much better overview but, in my case, they didn't really help me to do something different and use the pace that we clearly had. In the end I pitted [for a second time] and lost position to Daniel.”
Coming out behind the young Australian ultimately proved crucial as, despite having fresher tyres than his team-mate, Vettel did not have the track position to take advantage of Perez's fading brakes and tyres in the closing stages. With Hamilton already out of the race, and Rosberg suffering a similar power loss to the Briton, the race proved to be there for the taking, but it was Ricciardo who benefited, scything past Perez and, once free of the Mexican, quickly disposing of the Mercedes.
Vettel, meanwhile, made his own move on Perez to claim third spot, but was lucky not to be caught up in the accident between the Mexican and Felipe Massa that happened just moments later as the Williams driver also tried to find a way through.
“Into turn one, I saw they were very close to each other and then saw something white coming in my mirror,” he recalled, “At the last second, I reacted and basically turned right as Felipe was in the air, flying past. It was kinda surreal, but I was quite lucky as I saw him just in time.”
Despite continuing to bemoan the Red Bull's lack of pace down the straights - “even with my DRS open and [Perez's] DRS closed, as soon as I pulled out of the tow, he was actually gaining down the straights” – Vettel insisted that it was still a day to remember as he celebrated his team-mate's first win.
“The race really came alive towards the end - and came to us with a big help from Mercedes,” he noted, “We were there to capitalise and it's a very positive day – Daniel's first win and a first win for Renault in this new era of engines. I think they've had a very good comeback but, as we saw here today, there is still plenty of work ahead of us because the Mercedes are still quite a lot quicker down the straights.”
Even when asked about the news that designer Adrian Newey was remaining on board, Vettel insisted that his only focus was on beating the Mercedes on a regular basis.
“We know we have a competitive car, but not yet a very competitive package to match them and beat them regularly,” he concluded, “Today we got lucky, but obviously it is a great reward for the whole team after a painful winter and difficult start to the season. To get both cars on the podium and beat at least one of the Mercedes, I think that is a positive day for us, but I'm looking short term if you ask me about the future.”