Sebastian Vettel was left ruing a strategy error from Ferrari in Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix as he was forced to settle for third place behind both Mercedes’ drivers at the checkered flag.
Vettel made a lightening start from third place on the grid to surge into the lead on the first lap in Melbourne, taking teammate Kimi Raikkonen in tow.
The German driver managed to eke out an early lead as both Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton struggled for pace in third and sixth respectively, putting Vettel in control of the race.
However, shortly after his first pit stop, Vettel’s charge was halted when a red flag was issued following a sizeable crash involving Fernando Alonso and Esteban Gutierrez.
Mercedes took advantage of the red flag period to switch its drivers to the medium compound tire that would enable them to go until the end of the race without pitting, while Ferrari stuck to strategy and kept Vettel on super-softs.
Although Vettel had a pace advantage to begin with, he soon began to struggle and ultimately had to pit again for soft tires, dropping him to fourth.
Vettel was the fastest driver on the track in the closing stages of the race as he battled back, but was unable to pass Hamilton for second place late on, leaving him to settle for third at the flag.
“I went for it. The start was mega, I was very happy,” Vettel said.
“Then we settled in nicely, it’s much better when you are at the front. You can argue the red flag didn’t help us, but we had our chance.
“We didn’t expect what both of them [Hamilton and Rosberg] did with tires, going to the hardest tire to the end.
“We were aggressive, and hopefully it works next time.”