Sebastian Vettel rues Ferrari's strategy error during Australian GP
Scuderia err with tyre choice following mid-race stoppage
By Pete Gill and James Galloway in Melbourne
Last Updated: 31/10/19 1:41pm
Sebastian Vettel has rued the strategy error which cost Ferrari a likely victory at the season-opening Australian GP.
After overtaking both Mercedes cars off the line at Albert Park to lead the race in a one-two formation, the Scuderia's afternoon spectacularly unravelled as Nico Rosberg claimed victory for Mercedes ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
While the luckless Kimi Raikkonen was forced to retire when his engine caught fire, Vettel's bid for victory was scuppered by the team's decision to run him on supersoft tyres when the race restarted following a stoppage for Fernando Alonso's crash.
"We went for the aggressive route, maybe in hindsight we could have done something else, but I'm not going to blame anyone," said Vettel after finishing third.
Mercedes opted to run both Rosberg and Hamilton after the restart to the finish on a set of medium tyres with the German inheriting the lead when Ferrari belatedly pitted Vettel for a set of softs.
"I just don't think they thought that Mercedes would go all the way to the finish," observed Sky F1 pundit Damon Hill. "Going to the supersofts was just a little bit too aggressive. They were pretty competitive but the supersofts just doesn't give you enough laps."
Vettel added: "The red flag didn't help us but we still had our chance. We didn't expect what both of them did by going onto the hardest tyre. We tried to be aggressive but it didn't work."
Team boss Maurizio Arrivabene denied Ferrari's strategy threw away their chance of a season-opening victory.
"If you look at the race, it's in front of everybody, we were showing up very good pace, we were quite comfortable and after the red flag we took a decision," he said. "A decision can be right or wrong, but no [we didn't lose the race ourselves]."
The Italian defended Ferrari's "aggressive" choice and, although they did not win, believes they have shown they can compete with Mercedes.
"At that stage of the race we have to be a bit more aggressive, we could be right or we could be wrong," Arrivabene added. "Sebastian was also talking about that, but in the end we were pushing like hell and Sebastian had a chance to be able to overtake Hamilton.
"If you want to look at the glass not half empty, we were there - this is the news. After that you cannot be happy [Ferrari didn't win], but this is racing."
Vettel has also taken encouragement from Ferrari's pace at the 2016 curtain-raiser with the SF16-H looking a match for Mercedes' W07.
"The team seems in good shape, we know we can up our game, and we want to put pressure on these [Mercedes] guys.
"This is the right car that should allow us to put a lot of pressure on these guys."
Don't miss the F1 Report for all the reaction and analysis from the Australian GP. Natalie Pinkham is joined by David Brabham and former McLaren mechanic Marc Priestley on Wednesday at 8:30pm on Sky Sports F1.