Sebastian Vettel says he was confident his Ferrari had the race pace to take victory at the Spanish Grand Prix but rues a strategy error which left him trailing Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen.
After the Mercedes duo spectacularly wiped each other out on the first lap Vettel relished the ideal opportunity for a first win in 2016. A successful undercut on Daniel Ricciardo on his third pit stop released him to reel in the two-stoppers of Raikkonen and Verstappen.
To the German's frustration his pace on the medium tyres wasn't enough to catch the front two and conceded he was forced to defend third from Ricciardo before the Australian's late tyre puncture.
Vettel says his race pace was strong enough to lead, especially on the soft tyres, but the three stop strategy was ultimately the wrong one.
“It was an interesting race, we tried everything to get ahead and we were surprised by how superior the two stop was,” Vettel said. “From their point of view they tried to cover as much as they can with the lead car but we could see, both for myself and Daniel, that the three stop wasn't really superior.
“I had an interesting race trying to hold him off they were quite competitive on the medium tyre and a bit quicker than us in the last sector so it was difficult to hold him off. It was quite hairy and close into turn one and if I didn't move over we would have crashed in that instant.
“It is racing because it was the one chance he had when I had a bad exit so he had to go for it. I've raced him a few times and it was fun and entertaining for me trying to hold on it the podium so I'm very happy to hold on to it.”
Vettel has seen his record as the youngest-ever F1 Grand Prix winner taken by Verstappen at the Circuit de Catalunya and paid credit to the recently-promoted Red Bull driver for his impressive performance.
“I had high hopes after turn four [Mercedes clash], certainly for all of us, to go and win the race,” he said. “We tried everything, we split the cars strategies but obviously on my side it was the worst strategy in hindsight.
“It doesn't matter now, Max won the race and congratulations to him, it is very special to win your first race and he deserves it. He did a great race.”