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F1 China 2013: Vettel battles hard but misses podium
14 April 2013
Fourth place at the end of the F1 Grand Prix of China in Shanghai proved enough to keep Sebastian Vettel at the head of the world championship points standings, but the reigning world champion's lead is down to just three points over Kimi Raikkonen.
Vettel admitted he'd been hoping for more from the Chinese round of the 2013 season:, despite starting from ninth position on the grid, he'd hoped that opting for the prime tyres at the start of the race would give him a crucial advantage over the cars ahead who would have to suffer the short-lived option tyres in the opening laps.
"We knew it would be difficult and that it was crucial to get clean laps [in the early part of the race]," Vettel said. "But we didn't in the first stint."
Vettel said that he'd been held up by the Sauber of Nico Hülkenberg in those crucial first few minutes of the race.
"I was faster than Nico but if you follow another car you lean on your front tyres too much and it was hard to find the right compromise," he explained. "Nonetheless, our strategy seemed to work today ... overall we can be happy.”
Those few seconds lost early on genuinely did make the difference between a podium position and finishing in fourth place as he eventually did, with just two-tenths of a second separating the Red Bull from the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton at the finish line.
“After the last stop, the team told me there was quite a big gap to the cars ahead but also a big gap behind, so we thought we should go for it in the closing stages," who overhauled a 13 second lead held by Hamilton to get within striking distance on the last lap of the race.
"When I came on to the long straight and saw Lewis at the other end turning into the hair pin I thought 'well, that's a bit too far', but obviously we had much more speed on the fresher tyres," Vettel continued.
Even so, he just ran out of time to pull off his move, with a Caterham car getting in the way of the battle at a crucial moment allowing Hamilton to escape and cross the line just ahead.
"It was a little bit disappointing to lose out by such a tiny bit," admitted Vettel. "A few corners more and we could have tried something."
"Arguably the time lost [with Hülkenberg at the start] hurt Sebastian at the end of the race," agreed Red Bull team principal Christian Horner. "Otherwise I am sure he would have been on the podium.
"Nonetheless [Seb] drove a very strong race, managing his pace and tyres very well to come extremely close to taking the final podium place on the final lap," he continued. "Unfortunately in the first stint, after Sebastian had passed Jenson, Hülkenberg managed to pass both Jenson and Sebastian in the DRS zone, which cost us quite a bit of time.
"Having opted to start the race on the prime tyre, it was always going to be a different race for us compared to the cars ahead," he added.