Sebastian Vettel has hailed his second place finish in the European Grand Prix as a “great recovery” by Ferrari.
The Scuderia struggled on Friday in practice, but improved overnight and after FP3, and after starting third, Vettel made a one-stop strategy work en-route to his second podium in succession and his fifth top-three of the season, a result that moves him back up to third in the Drivers' Championship, albeit 45 points adrift of Nico Rosberg, and 21 down on Lewis Hamilton.
“Today has obviously been a great job for us. Already by the end of yesterday the car was coming alive. We were struggling a bit on Friday, but to see where we are now I think is a great recovery,” Vettel confirmed.
“Second place in a row, two times on the podium now in a row after Canada, which is great, scoring some good points – even though this weekend was a bit different to last week. But still I think the pace is there, the car is good, we are coming along, so all in all a great day and thanks to the team.”
Despite taking second, however, Vettel conceded the gap to Mercedes this weekend wasn't exactly good.
“Surely it's not great news but all weekend they've been very, very quick. First session, after four laps they were putting lap times in that took us the probably the whole day to copy – so yeah, I think we didn't have a good day on Friday, we were lacking pace. The car didn't feel bad but it was just not quick enough,” he explained.
“Then we changed quite a lot for Saturday, changed again quite a lot going into quali, so we did what we could here, reacting to it and came back and in the end finishing second… of course we benefitted a little bit from the problem that Lewis, or the mistake that Lewis did yesterday because both Mercedes were very, very quick throughout the weekend – but that's how it's done.
“So I'm very happy and very proud. We kept our head in and, as a team, worked well.”
Meanwhile, Vettel said the reason he didn't stop until lap 20, questioning a call to come in around lap 6, was because he felt he had a “decent feeling”.
“Yeah, basically I was called in. We wanted to react to Daniel [Ricciardo] who pitted [on lap 6]. He was struggling a lot with his tyres; obviously we passed him and then he went into the box. But I had a decent feeling, the pace was quite OK, I thought, and then we decided to stay out so I was asking the team to stay out, the tyres felt OK and I wanted to keep going.
“I was maybe at that point, seeing that Daniel was struggling and feeling that the tyres were not feeling so comfortable in the first, six, ten laps, a bit worried that the second stint would be very, very long. In the end I don't think there was much in it.
“Obviously we lost position to [team-mate] Kimi [Raikkonen] who undercut us but obviously we played well as a team together to make sure that when I came out behind him with the fresher tyres to use the pace and secure second place. He made it very nice for me to secure the second.
"Obviously at that point with a lot of laps to go we didn't know how quick Lewis would be and how much him and Checo [Sergio Perez] would be able to catch up so it has priority to make sure that we ran away, but, all-in-all, it's been a great track and a great weekend.
"I didn't really know what to expect, but it's been a great pleasure, a great welcome for all of us [here]. I think the circuit is incredible. You need to be 'well-equipped', let's put it this way, around here, so some proper high-speed corners and very, very close.”