Sebastian Vettel has conceded Ferrari was caught out by the strategy call made by Mercedes during Sunday's Australian Grand Prix.
Vettel looked to be in a commanding position early on, after a “mega” start saw him take the lead, darting between pole sitter Lewis Hamilton and the other Mercedes of Nico Rosberg.
Vettel then continued to lead after the first stops, but the subsequent stoppage period - following the massive crash involving Fernando Alonso and Esteban Gutierrez – cost him dear.
Ferrari elected to stay on the supersofts, while Mercedes went for the mediums to run to the end. It meant the German was forced to stop again, and while he did close right up on Hamilton near the finish, a late error with 2 or so laps to go, meant he had to settle for third.
“The red flag you can argue it didn't help us, but nevertheless I think we had our chance,” Vettel reflected.
“We didn't expect, probably, what both of them [at Mercedes] did going on let's say the hardest compound, the medium tyre, and going to the end. We tried to go more aggressive, maybe it didn't work, but ultimately very happy with third. We tried everything and hopefully it works next time.”
Despite not winning though, Vettel insisted he was encouraged by the way the Scuderia has started the new season.
“Definitely, I think we were a lot closer. Last year this was one of our worst tracks, so there are plenty of positives. We expected to be a bit stronger in qualifying. It wasn't the case. I think we had a bit of a rough session yesterday. Today was a lot better for us. We were a lot closer. The red flag didn't help as I said, but equally we benefitted at the start,” he added.
“Obviously the start was mega. I was very happy. It reminded me of Hungary last year, where I also passed both of them down to Turn 1. The guys did a great job.
“It was obviously a pleasant surprise seeing that the start was great and overtaking both of the Mercedes'. It was a bit tight with Nico into Turn 1, but in the end we made it and even had both cars running at the front. I couldn't have asked for more really and yesterday was forgotten at that point.
“Then I think we settled into a rhythm nicely. It is much better when you are at the front. You can control the race and the pace.
“You can argue the red flag later on didn't help us but equally one time it plays into your favour [like at the start] and the other catches you out a bit. Today I think nevertheless we had a great race. We went for the aggressive route. Maybe with hindsight we could have done something else, but I am not willing to blame anything or anyone because we are a team. We win as a team and today we won 15 points.
“I think there are plenty of positives. The team is in good shape and we know we can up our game and we want to put pressure on Mercedes.”