Lewis Hamilton said Mercedes had no answer to Red Bull and Ferrari's pace in Belgium
"They were both too fast for us today," Mercedes driver admits
By Pete Gill and James Galloway at Spa
Last Updated: 26/08/13 7:03am
Unable to keep pace with either Vettel or the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso on what proved to be a chastening afternoon for the Mercedes team, Hamilton has fallen 58 points behind the reigning World Champion.
"They were both too fast for us today and this was the best we could have done," Hamilton said of his third place.
"We didn't have as good a package as the Red Bull and Ferrari today, they were just too quick for us - particularly on the straights, through Eau Rouge and the last sector. I was pedal to the metal all the way, but I just couldn't do anything about it."
Despite starting from pole position, Hamilton's victory chances were as good as over by the end of the first lap as Vettel blasted past the Englishman and built up a formidable 1.4-second lead.
"I think everyone was surprised," the Mercedes driver reflected as he considered Vettel's unexpected straightline speed. "I felt like I had a good exit through turn one but Sebastian caught me massively through Eau Rouge and there was no defending really. I could only move once and just had to watch him glide by. After that it was very difficult to hold on to him."
"Our general end-of-straight pace looked like it was the same as theirs, but they were picking it up elsewhere so we have some performance to gain."
Hamilton's own lack of straight-line speed was even more apparent when he deliberated surrendered second place to Fernando Alonso in the expectation of repassing the Ferrari into Les Combes with the benefit of DRS, only to find that the F138's straight-line speed was still a match for the W04's.
Nevertheless, Hamilton is not yet waving the white flag on delivering the race victories without which catching Vettel will surely prove impossible.
"Every year you come here and Monza with a new package, on the front but particularly on the rear wing, and sometimes you hit the nail on the head and sometimes you don't. We did a decent job but obviously these guys have done a slightly better job," he said.
"Whether or not we can really make an adjustment for the next race, let's wait and see, but more importantly I think we will back to being very competitive when we get to Singapore."
One statistical consolation for Hamilton from Sunday is that he now resides in third place in the World Championship ahead of Kimi Raikkonen.
The bottom line, though, is that with the gap to Vettel extended to 58 points, he now trails the World Champion by a margin in excess of two race victories.