Sebastian Vettel continues to struggle to match teammate Daniel Ricciardo’s impressive form with the Red Bull RB10.
Regarding the way the Chinese GP unfolded, Vettel said: “The start was good, the first stint I was pretty happy, and then on the primes I was struggling more than we wished. In the end obviously the gap to the cars in front is too big.
“I don’t think there was a problem with the car. At the moment he [Ricciardo] just seems to get more out of the car than I do. I’m sure there are a lot of things that I don’t really like at this stage, but in the end we have the same car. The gap for sure is too big to be just something small. In terms of setup, I know there is not too much difference, so we need to have a look, and keep working.”
Vettel insisted he had no problem about letting Ricciardo by after he was told they were on different strategies, although ultimately they both pitted twice.
“Initially I didn’t understand, but once I was told that we were on a different strategy there was no point to block him further, but also if you look at the raw result in the end it was quite obvious that he was quicker today.”
Meanwhile, Vettel insisted that overall the team is in a much better position than could have been expected prior to the season.
“Right from the start it’s been a positive start to see that the car is more or less reliable, and see that the car is quick and has potential. We know that our main weakness compared to our rivals in down the straight, and from a driver point of view there’s not much you can do. It should be the easiest part, but we’re struggling with that. We need to obviously work on that front.”
Christian Horner expects Sebastian Vettel to return to form once he gets to the bottom of the problems that have held him back thus far in 2014.
Vettel is not fully comfortable with the RB10, and has been suffering through being harder on the tires than teammate Daniel Ricciardo.
“Obviously Sebastian is having a tough time at the moment, because he hasn’t got that feeling from the car that he’s looking for,” said Horner. “He’s tremendously sensitive to certain aspects of the setup, and he’s not getting the feedback from the car that he wants. And then the compound effect of that is that he’s damaging the tire more.
“It’s highly unusual for him to be going through the tire life quicker than the average. That’s just the culmination of the issues that he’s currently got, and as soon as we’ve worked those out he’ll be back with a bang.
“He’s just going through the tire quicker, the tire’s opening up quicker with him because he’s not found that sweet spot that he requires. Whereas Daniel, as we saw on Friday, had extremely good tire degradation, and did so again today.”
Horner said he understood why Vettel was initially reluctant to let his teammate past.
“He’s a racer, and of course he asked us first of all what tire is Daniel on? And then at that point what he didn’t realize was that we were looking at a different strategy, because Seb was going through the tire phases quicker, to convert Sebastian onto a three-stop. As soon as he understood that he immediately let him through, and you could see that he simply didn’t have the pace to hold him back. Therefore it was pointless.
“The situation was that his tires were quite a bit older at that stage, he was going through the tire quicker, and it looked like a three-stop. The problem was that the windows of traffic weren’t opening up for him behind. We could see that with our lack of straight-line pace that overtaking, despite fresher tires, would be difficult. So therefore in the end we concluded that a two-stop would be the best strategy for him as well.”
On the pitfalls of team orders he said: “We’re doing our best as a team, and obviously we’re trying to beat the cars ahead of us. It’s not just about out guys racing themselves. They race for a team at the end of the day, and they both understand that. Our objective is to maximize our chances, and our best chance in the race today was with Daniel.”
Meanwhile Horner was full of praise for Ricciardo’s performance.
“It was a massive performance by Dan, he’s been hugely impressive all weekend. He’s really been outstanding this season, in all four Grands Prix this year I think he’s done a tremendous job. His confidence is growing.
“He seems so calm in the car, his feedback is exceptional when he talks on the radio it’s like he’s having a coffee in a coffee shop up the road, especially with the lack of noise now you can hear it perfectly. And he’s enjoying what he’s doing, he’s enjoying being a Grand Prix driver, he’s enjoying driving for the team.”