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.”