Sebastian Vettel has shrugged off Pirelli's claim that his Austrian Grand Prix tyre failure was likely caused by debris, insisting that it doesn't change the fact that he left the Red Bull Ring scoreless.
The German remains third in the points table, but is now level on points with Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen after being forced out of the lead when his right rear tyre blew in spectacular fashion on the main straight. The force of the failure turned Vettel's Ferrari sharply into the barriers, ending any hope he may have had of limping back to the pits for a replacement.
Pirelli's post-race findings pointed to a debris-related failure, rather than anything structural with the tyre itself, but Vettel insisted that, whatever the reason, it does not make up for the fact that he felt handily placed in a race not expected to suit the Scuderia.
“In the end, it doesn't matter,” sighed the German, who also had to contend with a five-place grid penalty after changing his gearbox earlier in the weekend, “I didn't finish the race, which was bad.
“I think we could have had a good race from where we were, making quite a long first stint. Obviously, if I don't have the issue, then there's no safety car - at least at that point - and the race could look completely different. Unfortunately, we will not find out and we have to live with the fact that, first of all, we didn't see the chequered flag.
“We've seen, in the past, people struggling with this kind of thing, but what can you do if it's debris and you pick up something? I think there was a race where Daniel [Ricciardo] was in the lead and it was lucky it happened just a couple of metres before the pit entry and there was a safety car so he could recover but, sometimes, it's not the case - as it was for us. Of course, we were caught by surprise, but what can you do now? Nothing, so I think we move on from what happened in Austria and focus on the race here.”
Despite his attempts to 'move on', however, Vettel clearly believes that Ferrari had a chance of contending for its first race win of 2016...
“I think it's fairly clear we would have come out behind the two Mercs for sure, the two Red Bulls and also behind Kimi, but then we had the freshest tyres from all of those cars,” he reasoned, “I think the fact there was a safety car - that I caused - made some people jump onto the one-stop and try, otherwise I think there were probably more looking for two stops, I'm thinking of the two Red Bulls for example.
“It's difficult to say. Maybe there could have been another safety car for something else but, at that point, I don't think it was looking bad at all. I think what we tried to do was the right thing and would give us a good chance at the end of the race with a fresher set of soft tyres. For sure, the ambition was to do only one stop at that point.”
The DNF, Vettel's third non-score of the season, leaves him 57 points adrift of fellow countryman Nico Rosberg with twelve races remaining, but the four-time champion refuses to concede just yet.
“I didn't expect any reference at any race,” he said of the points situation, “I think, for sure, our season could have been better up to this point but, equally, there is still a lot of races to go. We have to keep the focus, go race-by-race and see what happens. The amount of points…? I don't have to look at that because I have people like you being so kind and reminding me. So it's fairly easy, I just need to focus on driving.”