Sebastian Vettel looking to ‘maximise’ results, not focusing on F1 title prospects

Sebastian Vettel is taking a race-by-race approach to the 2018 F1 title fight as he looks to "maximise" results. 

Sebastian Vettel is focused on “maximising” his results rather than dwelling on his Formula 1 title prospects at such an early stage of 2018.

Vettel heads into this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix four points behind chief title rival Lewis Hamilton, despite appearing to have the best package of the 2018 field beneath him in the shape of Ferrari’s SF71H.

The German won the opening two rounds of the season but was hit by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in China and dropped to eighth, before losing ground while trying to reclaim the lead from Valtteri Bottas during crazy a race in Baku, where he finished fourth as Hamilton claimed a surprise win.

"I think so far we can be pretty happy, have been pretty competitive, had a chance to fight for the win in most of the races we did so far,” Vettel said.

“I mean there’s so many races to go it’s pointless to talk about the fight for the championship. At the moment I think it’s the fight to maximise every single race result, pretty straight forward for a long time, then towards the end of the season a lot of you will remind us that we’re still in the hunt.

“But before that there’s not much point, get points, and things like this, natural you want to finish a race, natural you want to win a race, if you can get the best result every weekend you’re racing, if that brings you a position to fight for the championship that’s good news.”

Mercedes threatened to continue its dominance of the V6 hybrid era in Australia as Hamilton claimed a dominant pole and boasted the fastest car in race-trim, but an ill-timed Virtual Safety Car period enabled Vettel to leapfrog the Briton.

The German manufacturer has struggled to repeat a similar level of performance since the season-opener and has ultimately fallen behind Ferrari in the constructors’ championship, while Red Bull has also made strides and was victorious in China.

“I think honest answer is Australia Mercedes was the fastest car, the best package, I think after that in racing I think it was a tie between us, Mercedes and Red Bull to be honest,” Vettel replied when asked how he saw 2018’s current competitive order.

“In qualifying I think we did what we were supposed to do and I think other people maybe had some trouble, I don’t understand sometimes the form on Friday versus Saturday, for example in Baku why Red Bull was so quick on Friday and not quick on Saturday but then they were back to where they were in terms of pace on Sunday.

“Going through our weekend sometimes you feel more comfortable in the car, sometimes less, trying to fine tune set-ups, so I think it is as a fact very tight at the top and small things can make a big difference on the day.

“We’re here we get a round of updates for everybody, see where it takes us, quite nice if you start first, or even sixth, and you know that you can fight for the win in terms of pure pace. It’s good for people watching as you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Sebastian Vettel claims Pirelli’s change to its tyres for this weekend is a response to problems two of Ferrari’s rivals experienced during testing at the Circuit de Catalunya.

F1’s official tyre supplier has reduced the tread depth of its compounds for this weekend’s race, as well as the upcoming rounds at Paul Ricard and Silverstone. Pirelli said this was done to allow teams to manage their tyre temperatures better.
However Vettel believes the change was made in response to problems two teams encountered in pre-season testing.

“Obviously we have different tyres because Pirelli reacted to the issues Mercedes had and Red Bull had in testing, so we’ll see how that goes,” he said.

Vettel has previously indicated his suspicions about the change. Before it was announced the Ferrari driver said rival teams had been “[trying] to get the tyre supplier in the direction that suits their car best.”

Ahead of this weekend’s race Vettel said the margin between the leading teams is very fine and small changes could tip the balance.

“In Australia Mercedes was the fastest car, the best package. After that I think in racing it was a tie between us, Mercedes and Red Bull to be honest.