Sebsatian Vettel has called his podium finish in Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix “the best second place I ever had” as he starred for Ferrari in its home race at Monza.
Vettel started the race from third place on the grid, and after seeing teammate Kimi Raikkonen stall from second, he was able to fight with pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton for the lead on the run down to turn one.
Hamilton retained his lead and soon scampered into the distance, but Vettel managed to create a healthy gap to the cars behind through the first stint of the race.
Vettel came under pressure from Nico Rosberg in the closing stages of the race, only for the Mercedes driver to suffer an engine failure with three laps remaining.
“Our race was pretty isolated but I knew I had to keep pushing,” Vettel explained. “Seeing the pace that Lewis had, I knew that Nico eventually will have the same pace.
“He did in the end, he was closing the gap, it was getting quite tight but I think we could have managed and get the place even with Nico not retiring.
“So, in the end, to sum it up, it’s fairly simple, it’s the best second place I ever had. The emotions on the podium is incredible.”
After the race at Monza, it is tradition for the fans – most there to cheer on Ferrari – to spill onto the track and stand underneath the podium.
Vettel addressed them in the post-race interviews with Star Wars creator George Lucas, speaking in Italian.
“Thanks to you!” he said. “Thank you fans! This year is incredible. Thank you to all the team, I thank you again.”
Having grown up as a Ferrari fan and turned his back on Red Bull after four world championships to join the Italian marque for 2015, racing at Monza for the first time in the scarlet red car was always going to be an emotional experience.
Thanks to Rosberg’s retirement, Vettel has now closed to within 21 points of the German for second place in the drivers’ championship, and will be hoping to make more inroads at the Singapore Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.