Sebastian Vettel feels even though Ferrari's race strategy switch made the battle for victory 'tricky' he says Mercedes pace on worn tyres proved too strong in the end.
The Ferrari driver produced a perfect getaway off the start line to jump the two Mercedes drivers and began to pull away at the front over the opening laps.
After Jenson Button's engine fire caused a brief Virtual Safety Car, Ferrari gambled with a strategy flip to pit both cars for fresh super-softs on lap 12.
The strategy call enabled Vettel to blast back through the order and once Hamilton pitted for softs the German driver pulled out an eight-second lead but needing to pit again for the mandatory soft compounds he lost track position.
On fresher rubber Vettel attempted to reel in the Mercedes but felt despite his efforts the pace of Hamilton on worn tyres surprised him and Ferrari and conceded the victory to the British driver.
“Lewis was a bit too quick! That was the issue,” Vettel said. “I think we had a great weekend. Obviously we had a fantastic start and then lap one was a bit hairy. I struggled to brake, to stop the car in the last corner [running wide at the chicane]. It was very windy today and I struggled a bit with the wind from behind.
“I was pushing all race. I think we committed fairly early to a different strategy, and we were planning to come back [at Mercedes]. Obviously Lewis had the chance to stay out [after we pitted early on] and see what the tyres are doing and I think probably the tyres lasted a bit better than we expected. So that made it quite tricky with fresher tyres to close the gap.”
Despite missing out on the opportunity of a first win since Singapore last year, Vettel remains pleased with his weekend's rewards and hopes to use it as a kicker for the middle third of the season.
“Overall a great weekend for us,” he said. “I think we struggled a little bit the last couple of races and the beginning of the season and now to see the car has performance and unleash it, it was a really fun race and really enjoyed it.”