The German was left to stretch the life of his soft tyres to over 40 laps after Ferrari rescinded plans of a two-stop strategy in order to hold its advantage over the one-stopping Mercedes cars.
With 10 laps to go, Vettel said that his tyres were still in a fit state in order to deter Mercedes and Bottas from pushing for victory. However, Vettel revealed post-race that he’d bent the truth.
“I think 10 laps to go, I came on the radio and said ‘everything’s under control’. That was a lie because I was hoping they’d tell Valtteri to save the engine, turn it down and give up. But they didn’t do that.
“Equally, I was sure if I’d said the truth and said I’m struggling massively with the tyres they would tell him and make sure that he’s having all the power available until the end.”
The Ferrari driver ceded that he really started to struggle in the heavier traction zones, becoming increasingly rear-limited whilst Bottas scythed down the gap by over a second per lap.
“[The tyres] weren’t getting any better. It was really difficult to keep the car on the line especially in Turn 8, Turn 10, just getting out of the low speed corners was really tricky.”
Mercedes had opted for the medium tyres on both Bottas and Lewis Hamilton’s cars. The pair ran long on their opening sets, although Hamilton chose to qualify and start the race on soft compound tyres after a five-place penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change relegated him to ninth on the grid.
This countered Ferrari’s original plans for a two-stop race for both Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen – the latter’s race ending after a disastrous second pit stop. Vettel came under enormous pressure from Bottas, who had the advantage of DRS on the last lap.
Vettel noted that it if he’d stopped again it would have been difficult to catch and pass the Mercedes cars, even on fresh tyres, given their astonishing pace and consistency on the medium compound.
“With them on the medium tyre and having such strong pace for long we knew it would be difficult to come out with a fresh set. We’d probably chase them down, but to pass is a different story. First we’d have to get past Lewis and then chase and pass Valtteri. In the end we tried and it worked. It’s good when it works out like that.”
Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?