Sebastian Vettel reckons second was probably the maximum in the Chinese Grand Prix, although he continued to say he was “disappointed” with the contact on the opening lap and “terribly” sorry for team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.
The two Ferraris touched into the first corner, with Vettel blaming Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat for the incident, describing the Russian's move as “suicidal” and later saying he was driving “like a crazy”
Despite that, however, Vettel came back, and after a chaotic race still managed to finish 'best of the rest' for the Scuderia, albeit 37.7s behind race winner, Nico Rosberg.
“I am disappointed I made contact on lap one. I was lucky the car was still intact, I was reporting to the team that I thought I had to box straight away but it was actually OK,” said the four-time Formula One World Champion.
“The steering wheel was a bit off centre so I had a bit of damage in the race and it was more difficult in left-handers than right-handers – fortunately there are more right-handers, so the other way around may have been more difficult.
“The safety car helped and then we had a different strategy than most with the super-soft tyre which allowed me to clear the traffic and make progress. A lot of cars, I didn't count but it felt like a lot! They just kept coming but we managed to clear them which was essential, then Daniil at the end the last car to pass was trickier.
“He was good at the end of the stint with the soft tyres but we knew he would pit to the medium tyres and we still had a set of softs. We tried to be as quick as possible, I was gaining a bit on the way into the pit and then on the out lap managed to jump him which was important for P2.
“Incredible recovery, which at that point when you make contact in turn one, you don't think to cross your mind it could be lost from here and the race has started. Very, very happy with the recovery and good we had both cars in the top five at the finish. Terribly sorry for Kimi but there is nothing I could have done differently. I was a bit in the sandwich of Kimi and Daniil… bit unfortunate but afterwards good fun and I enjoyed it a lot. The car was good today and P2 was probably the maximum.
“Very glad it worked out.”
Asked about his overtakes on the pit entry early in the race when the safety car was deployed, Vettel replied: “I am allowed to overtake. I don't know what happened to the Force India, he was very slow, the Toro Rosso decided to queue so I went half way over the grass and jumped both of them. We changed the nose so we lost the position again but we are free to race in the pit entry. Looks like I was the only one to remember!”
Vettel was also quizzed on the contact later on with Valtteri Bottas, but admitted the first he knew about it was when it was mentioned in the podium interviews.
“I think it did [have an affect]… not ideal when bits are missing. It wasn't huge to be honest and the fact the car was damaged from lap one made it difficult to distinguish. I think the fact it was alright and looked alright in terms of numbers the team decided to keep the nose. I was very aggressive, I think I damaged it into turn three, I thought it was OK, but I was surprised to be told my wing was damaged!” he continued. “I think in the end with the contact we had in turn one and two I was lucky to be able to continue anyway. It was a big hit with Kimi.”
Vettel is now hoping for a less dramatic weekend in Russia in two weeks time and confirmed the Scuderia will have some new parts for the trip to Sochi: “Overall not the smoothest road to Russia, hopefully we will have a solid weekend there. Last year the car felt pretty good and we made a step forward with the car and power unit, so quite confident for Russia. We have a couple of bits coming [as well] so hopefully a bit stronger and a smoother weekend.”