Vettel: We were closer than many, many races previously
Sebastian Vettel was once again best of the rest, behind the dominant Mercedes duo, this time at the Brazilian Grand Prix where he bagged third place and with it stood on the podium for the 13th time so far this year. The triple F1 world champion spoke after his afternoon at the Autodromo Carlos Pace in Sao Paulo.
It seems that you’ve got the VIP invitation for the 13th time this year on the podium to the Mercedes-Benz party up here.
Sebastian Vettel: Thank you but… I think it was a good race for us. I was hoping that at the start maybe we could do something, but it wasn’t possible. The start was OK, but it wasn’t any better than Lewis or Nico’s. After that, I thought halfway through the first stint that maybe we could stay with them, but then they were starting to pull away. Overall, I think we have to admit that they were just a bit quicker. But overall, I would say we were probably closer here than in many, many races before in terms of race pace – only one, two, three tenths maybe at the time – and in the last stint we were even a bit quicker. Overall, it felt like a good race but yeah, for sure, it was not very exciting, we were a bit in no-mans land, we didn’t have anybody to fight with but hopefully next race we can be again a bit closer.
You obviously, like the Mercedes drivers, made a switch it seems – but you went to the softs on lap 33. Talk us through the thinking and the discussion with the team that went into that.
SV: Well, obviously we were too far away to really put big pressure on Mercedes and safe from the cars behind so we thought to try something different, put the soft tyre which, in the end, was very good. I was very happy on the soft tyre, probably a little bit happier than on the medium. Unfortunately we hit a lot of traffic to make a benefit or to keep catching up – but I guess it was the same for them out in front – but the idea was simply try to do something different. Yeah. We knew that the soft doesn’t go as far but probably a little bit quicker in the end. As I said, it lasted fairly well and I think it was a bit quicker so it was fair enough to try. Also, in the end I think we had good speed. We were in clean air, catching a little bit. Then again, it’s difficult to say how much Nico was controlling with Lewis behind. Obviously when you’re in the lead it’s always a bit different and not necessary to push into the unknown. Over all I think it was a good day for us. Good race. We were closer than many, many races previously, so I think it’s a good effort and shows our real standing right now.
This track might be worse, but it’s not the only track where you can’t follow a car closely. Is it time for a fundamental change in the technical rules – so that you can actually follow closely?
SV: I think on paper this is one of the easiest tracks to overtake. Sure, if you’re behind you always want the DRS zone to be longer because artificially it helps you to get closer. Naturally if you are only a tenth or two quicker then it’s very difficult to pass – whereas if you’re a second quicker it becomes more easy. I think in general what we need to follow another car closer in medium speed, high speed, slow speed corners is more mechanical grip. So shift the percentage between aero – mechanical more towards more mechanical. How to do that? I think we need better tyres that allow us to go quicker. Drivers want to be quicker. So, I think the solution is very simple. Unfortunately the sport is very political with different interests from different people. Yeah. I think it’s fair enough to give whoever tyre manufacturer, in this case Pirelli, the chance to improve their tyres – but we need to run. But since the responsible people, the teams, whoever, can’t agree on something, it will be difficult to make progress. Unfortunately the people who literally are paying for that are sitting on the grandstands. So, we would love to go quicker. I think they would love us to go quicker and have more excitement but bottom line is, if you look ten years ago, 20 years ago, it wasn’t like there was a lot more overtaking in the race. So it’s also not a disaster what we see now.
You have already said something about it at the beginning but you finished six seconds behind Lewis in a race without rain, without safety car. Can you extend your analysis, is Ferrari really approaching Mercedes, does it project something better for your team for next year?
SV: Yeah, I think overall it’s true that we are closer compared to Australia. Obviously Malaysia was a bit different for us but I think in general if you look at the beginning of the season to now we are a lot closer. I don’t know what happened to Lewis in the end, I think the real gap we have to look at is the one to Nico. I think they were dropping a bit of pace, I was catching up as well but we are a lot closer than previous races. I think already in Mexico – obviously my race didn’t go too well – but I think the pace was strong so yes, I think we are closer, that’s due to hard work. We’ve improved on the engine side, the motoristi in Maranello have done a miracle this year, that’s due to the car. We have raised our game but yeah, for sure we want to be closer, a lot closer, ideally ahead next year. That’s a massive step but that’s the challenge and that’s the target for next year. We know we set high targets but in the end we want to be favourites going in and not hoping for something to happen in front to benefit.
I would like to comment on the enthusiasm of the Brazilians for the Grand Prix and of course, we see a big party in the grandstands, even without a Brazilian driver, so I would like you to comment on that and if you feel a difference in this weekend?
SV: Well, I think it’s a great place to come to to be honest. Every year it just seems to get better. At the beginning, maybe I was too young when I came here. I was a bit frightened by the size of the city, 20 million people, I was a bit scared. Where I come from there’s 25,000 people and I already thought that was a big place. Yeah, so maybe I was a bit lost in the beginning but since you come back every year and you get to see different parts of the city, I think it’s a great place and obviously as soon as we come here, we are treated like super-heroes. We can’t really fly but obviously it’s nice to see the passion for races, for the sport and as you said, there’s a lot of flags around the track, Ferrari flags, German flags, English flags, for all of us to support. Obviously a place like this needs a local hero so it would be even better if a Brazilian was fighting for the podium but in principal I think it’s one of the best races we’ve had. There was never any discussion about the sport struggling here be