Ferrari says a sensor problem on Sebastian Vettel’s Formula 1 car hampered his performance in the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Vettel started alongside five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton on the front row but lost ground early on at Interlagos as he was immediately beaten by Valtteri Bottas off the line, before being passed by Max Verstappen and then falling to fifth when he ran wide at Turn 4.

The German ultimately finished a lowly sixth after switching onto a two-stop strategy shortly after Daniel Ricciardo surged past with a trademark divebomb move at Turn 1.

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But Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene confirmed after the race that a sensor issue had forced Vettel to run in different settings which made his car difficult to drive.

"Right from the formation lap, we became aware of a problem with a sensor on Seb's car,” Arrivabene explained.

"This meant that, for the whole race, he had to run different settings to those we would have normally used and that made the car difficult to drive."

While Vettel struggled to sixth, believing Ferrari’s tyre gamble had proven to be a disadvantage, teammate Raikkonen recorded his 12th podium of the season in third, though it was not enough to prevent Mercedes from sealing its fifth constructors’ title.

“This was not an easy race and I am not happy with sixth place,” Vettel said.

“I tried to do my best, but the car was difficult to drive and I even struggled to drive on the straights.

“There’s not much to say as this year Mercedes has been stronger than us and we can only congratulate them.”

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