Despite finishing an underwhelming fifth place at the French Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel says he relished the chance to push his Ferrari every lap as he aimed to catch the front-runners following his lowly qualifying result.

After struggling in Q3, Vettel qualified down in seventh place which left him out of touch with the leading Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, plus Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

Having darted past the pair of McLarens ahead of him during the opening stint, Vettel had already seen a significant time gap grow to the leading quartet at Circuit Paul Ricard which set up a charge to close down the leaders.

Even though Vettel came up well short, finishing 28 seconds behind Verstappen who was in fourth place, the Ferrari driver says he savoured his own race despite the lack of on-track action and missing out on victory.

“I really enjoyed the race, I was lonely but it was nice in terms of being able to push yourself lap by lap,” Vettel said. “For sure it would’ve been nicer to challenge for the win rather than fifth and chasing in the distance the guys in front.

“But yeah that’s where we currently are and the key is to keep our heads down and keep our focus to make sure we are not there the entire year.”

Assessing Ferrari’s current situation, with teammate Leclerc finishing in third place but almost 19 seconds behind race-winner Hamilton, Vettel says it is pointless to compare the team’s results to last season when he was fighting for the F1 world championship lead and is fully-focused on the future.

“We are in a better place than may be in 2015 and 2016,” he said. “So I think that 2017 and 2018 have been a clear step in the right direction.

“It’s true that at this point last year we were more competitive, but it is what it is now.

“It doesn’t make much sense to spend time on where we were the last race or ten races ago in terms of results and gaps. I think what is important is to look back at these races and understand what we need to do better. That’s the way I approach.”

Vettel is now 76 points behind F1 world championship leader Hamilton in the drivers’ standings, while Ferrari has slipped to a whopping 140 points off Mercedes at the top of the constructors’ championship.



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