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A third place for Sebastian Vettel and a fifth for Charles Leclerc: that was the outcome of the Chinese Grand Prix, the one-thousandth race in the history of Formula 1, for Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow, held today at the Shanghai International Circuit.
Off the grid, Sebastian got away better than poleman Valtteri Bottas and attempted to go down the outside of the Finn at the first corner, but that resulted in Charles going past him on the inside.
The cars in front were running at a slightly better pace than the SF90s, which is why, after 10 laps, the team asked the drivers to swap positions to see if Sebastian could match Bottas’ pace.
Max Verstappen’s early pit stop then forced the team to bring Sebastian in to cover it, sending him out on the Hard compound, so that he would not end up behind the Dutchman, who did manage to get back on track ahead of Charles.
Sebastian pitted for a second time on lap 35, this time fitting the Medium tyres, as did Hamilton and Bottas, the latter now finding himself behind Charles. Leclerc’s second stop came on lap 43 and he rejoined almost 15 seconds off Verstappen.
In the closing stages, Vettel consolidated his third place behind Hamilton and Bottas, while Charles closed much of the gap to Verstappen, but not enough to try and secure fourth place. Ferrari is second in the Constructors’ championship on 73 points, while Sebastian is fourth in the Drivers’ on 37, with Charles fifth on 36.
The next race is the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on 28 April.
Sebastian Vettel: “We are happy we got the podium, but overall we can’t be satisfied because we were too slow today. We were hoping to be in a much better place and be a match for Mercedes, but we were not. Also it was a shame we didn’t manage to finish third and fourth.
“In terms of calls from our pit wall today, the priority always lies within the team and Charles and I are both aware we are driving for the team. We can do our own race but first of all we have to ensure Ferrari is in a position to fight with its rivals. I think we have a good car and we are still not able to unlock its potential completely.”
“We are learning a lot about it and it’s important to do many laps to get a better feeling for it. We are getting an ever clearer picture of what we are lacking at the moment, so I think the next few weeks will be important for us, so that we can get on the right road for the coming months”.
Charles Leclerc: “Today’s race wasn’t one of my easiest, since it looks like we didn’t have a good enough pace to fight at the front with our competitors. My start was good, then I think both Seb and myself were struggling with the tyres.”
“We swapped positions and I thought he would have pulled away but he didn’t and this didn’t help my tyres because I had a bit of overheating and I lost some time. On my second set of tyres I hoped I’d be able to go all the way to the end, but unfortunately had to stop again and so lost a place.”
“We will sit down all together in order to understand what could have been done better and I’m sure we will come back stronger at the next race”
Mattia Binotto Team Principal: “Mercedes has been fast throughout the whole weekend, since Friday. They were fast yesterday in qualifying and fast today. We had a completely opposite situation from the one we faced two weeks ago in Bahrain and this shows that we could again have things going the other way around in two weeks time.”
“Things are changing from one weekend to the next and therefore we need to look at the championship thinking that every race may be different.”
“Our decisions on strategy were taken to try to maximize the teams’ result. We will go back to Maranello and look at all the data, try to understand what didn’t work this weekend in order to improve.”
“We need to further develop the car and understand where the limits are, then come back stronger for Baku. It’s again a completely different circuit and we need to approach that race with a positive attitude to do our best.”