Vettel: No team orders from Ferrari in Monaco GP victory

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Sebastian Vettel has denied that the strategy call that allowed him to leapfrog Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen and take his third win of the 2017 Formula 1 season in Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix was pre-planned.

Raikkonen led the early part of the race in Monaco from pole position with Vettel running second, the pair being split by no more than two seconds.

Ferrari pitted Raikkonen first in response to earlier stops from Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen in third and fourth place, releasing the Finn back into traffic after switching tires.

Running in clear air at the front, Vettel was able to put in a series of quick times that meant he emerged ahead of Raikkonen after stopping five laps later, with the position switch setting the German up for victory.

Raikkonen was left fuming after the race, having missed out on the chance to win his first race in Ferrari colors since 2009, while suggestions followed that the team had always planned for Vettel to take victory in a bid to aid his championship bid.

When asked if there was a pre-race plan to get him ahead of Raikkonen, Vettel said: “Not really. We spoke about the race before. It was clear that, as I said, I think they had the same plan to be honest so the lead car normally gets priority.

“So if I had a choice at that point, sitting behind Kimi, if I was going in the pits first, that’s maybe what you like to do because you are sooner on the fresher tires.

“I think it’s probably one of the rare occasions where the overcut turned out to be positive, so I’m really glad I made that work. From the team point of view, there was no plan of any team orders or anything.

“I can understand that obviously Kimi’s not happy. I would feel exactly the same, 100 per cent the same.”

The result saw Vettel extend his championship lead to 25 points over Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, but the German is refusing to think about winning a fifth world title yet.

“It’s a long way so I’m not really bothered about that. It was more the fact to stand up there and see the team,” Vettel said of the significance of his Monaco victory.

“I think obviously, it’s a small part that we have here at the track but thinking of everyone else back in Maranello in the factory.

“We got a lot of hard times last year and this year everything seems to be upside down, but the team is the same, the people are the same so it’s really clear to them.

“I guess in these small moments you just realize that it’s a special group of people. If things go well, we’ll work hand in hand, we must make sure we keep the momentum up in the next couple of races.

“But I think we’re just having a great time.”

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.