Vettel finds Ferrari pace ‘promising’ after Malaysia fightback

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Sebastian Vettel may have lost more ground on Formula 1 title rival Lewis Hamilton in Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix, but called Ferrari’s pace “promising” after fighting from last on the grid to finish fourth.

Vettel was unable to post a lap time in qualifying due to an engine issue on his Ferrari, leaving him P20 for the start of the race.

A good getaway saw Vettel rise to P13 on the first lap alone before rising further up the order throughout the first stint.

A late bid to pass Daniel Ricciardo for third place proved fruitless as Vettel’s tires dropped in performance, but the German was nevertheless pleased to finish fourth, with his race pace looking stronger than that of Hamilton’s at a track where Mercedes was expected to dominate.

“I am still optimistic, because we know that we have a quick car. Of course it was a shame for Kimi [Raikkonen] who couldn’t take the start, and for me having to begin my race from the back of the grid,” Vettel said.

“We tried to fight for the podium, pushed very hard, but in the end the tires were starting to give up and we couldn’t be really there. However, it is promising to see the car is good, even if both Kimi and I hit trouble this weekend.

“I don’t know yet if the issue is the same on both cars, we’ll need to have a look. For sure it’s not ideal having one car out yesterday and another one today. So, there’s something we need to understand.

“It’s been a difficult weekend, but nevertheless the speed is there. So far we’ve had a pretty good record for this year regarding reliability.

“I am not that worried to be honest, but we need to get on top of the problem.”

With Hamilton finishing second, Vettel saw the gap at the top of the drivers’ standings grow to 34 points with five races remaining, the next taking place at Suzuka in one week’s time.