Sebastian Vettel clinched runner-up spot in the Formula 1 drivers’ championship with a “lonely” run to third place in Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as he struggled to match the front-running Mercedes drivers for pace.
Vettel led the drivers’ standings from the opening round up to the Italian Grand Prix in September, only for a collapse from Ferrari through the Asian flyaways to cost him a chance of winning a fifth world title.
Vettel signed off from the 2017 season by finishing third in Abu Dhabi after failing to put up any kind of fight to Valtteri Bottas or Lewis Hamilton at the front of the field as they took a one-two finish for Mercedes.
“In the beginning I tried very hard and I think I had a good start, but then nowhere to go. I locked up a little bit and flat-spotted the first set to tires a tiny bit with that,” Vettel said.
“But then after three, four, five laps, I just couldn’t go any faster and they seemed to pull away.
“From there onwards it was pretty lonely. But then I have to say, in the second stint I really got into the car, got into the rhythm and I think we had stronger pace in the second part of the race – but not good enough to match those two guys.”
While disappointed to miss out on a fifth title at the hands of Mercedes rival Hamilton, Vettel admitted the Briton deserved the title on the podium at Yas Marina.
“Very much congratulations to Lewis on his season. He deserves to win the championship this year in the end,” Vettel said.
“I hate to say it – he was the better man, so I’m sure we will do our bit over the winter and hopefully come back stronger.
“Thanks to all the fans. The support for Ferrari has been incredible, so thank you very much. Forza Ferrari!”