Ferrari Formula 1 chief Mattia Binotto has confirmed Sebastian Vettel was forced to back off and save fuel on the final lap of Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Vettel ran close to Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton towards the closing stages of the race, sitting five seconds off the race lead with nine laps to go.

But Vettel was forced to drop back late on, losing three-and-a-half seconds on race winner Bottas on the very last lap of the race.

Binotto confirmed after the race that Vettel had been forced to save fuel late on after an unusual Baku race that did not feature a single Safety Car period.

“It’s true that he had to save some fuel at the end of the race,” Binotto said.

“Normally over an entire race distance, there are times in the race when you need to manage your fuel to make sure that you conclude with what’s the limit in the regulations.

“Simply he had to do it at the end. Maybe others did it earlier or didn’t; we don’t know yet.

“But yes, as a matter of fact on the very last lap of the race, he did it.”

While Vettel had been able to draw close to the Mercedes drivers through the second stint of the race, he struggled to keep up with either Bottas or Hamilton early on.

Vettel explained after the race that he had lacked grip on the Soft compound tyre before becoming more comfortable once he switched to Mediums.

Binotto said Ferrari was yet to determine why Vettel had struggled so much at the beginning of the race.

“We don’t know yet. I think it’s something which we need to analyse,” Binotto said.

“Certainly Seb was not comfortable on the first stint. He has been a lot more comfortable on the second, being quite strong, a good pace on the medium tyres.

“It’s really now down to us to analyse all the data, but we have no conclusion yet.”

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