Ferrari had been hoping that putting Sebastian Vettel on ultrasofts for the start of the French Grand Prix would prove a winning strategy.
In the end, the driver had to admit that it had been too successful – and had proved costly going into turn 1.
With both Mercedes cars on slower supersofts, Vettel was able to catch and pull alongside Valtteri Bottas. But heading into the first corner Vettel realised that the road was running out.
“My start was too good!” he admitted afterwards. “I ended up with no where to go. It was my mistake – I tried to brake early and get out of it, but I had no room.”
“Obviously the turn goes left and I tried to slow down,” he said. “I had no grip, being so close to the cars in front and also next to me.
“Valtteri tried to get his position back, which is fair enough but then I had no where to go.
“But with that little grip all I could do was open the radials and that meant I unfortunately had to make contact with Valtteri.”
The contact shattered the Ferrari’s front wing, and also left Bottas with a left rear puncture. Both cars were able to back to pit lane under a safety car to effect repairs that allowed them to continue.
Resuming at the back of the field, Vettel quickly scythed his way through the field to get back into the points, albeit at a cost.
“I think we had good pace,” he said of his race. “Obviously I tried to hammer through the field to recover, and damaged the tyres also.”
Although he’d been hoping to make it to the finish without making a second stop, the degradation forced him to make a late visit to pit lane for a final set of ultrasofts.
However a late Virtual Safety Car meant that he wasn’t able to improve on fifth place. It means that Vettel has lost the lead in the drivers championship to Lewis Hamilton, who has a 14 point advantage heading to Austria.
It felt like a lost opportunity for Vettel who believed that Ferrari had the pace to challenge the Silver Arrows at Le Castellet.
“It’s a bit difficult to say, because you’re always on different tyres,” he admitted. “In the end I had a lot fresher tyres.
“But I think we had decent pace to go at least with Mercedes.”
Race: Hamilton cruises to victory after Vettel and Bottas trip up
His point was proved by the progress of his team mate Kimi Raikkonen, who avoided the first lap incidents. Despite initially losing positions, Raikkonen pulled off some nice overtaking moves and finished on the podium in third place ahead of Daniel Ricciardo.
“It felt quite slippery in the first corner,” Raikkonen said when asked about his race. “I chose to go on the outside but it was the wrong side in the end and I had to slow down a bit.
“I got a bit blocked with all the mayhem that happened. But I got a decent recovery in the long stint and things worked well.
“And then in the end we had a lot of speed and managed to get on the podium,” he said. “It worked out pretty well.”
“It was just nice to race people from the beginning,” he said. “It’s always a lot more fun to be able to do that.”
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