Sebastian Vettel says there was “nothing to lose” with the risky one-stop strategy in the Spanish Grand Prix that lifted him to seventh place at the chequered flag.
After qualifying 11th, Vettel spent the opening stint of the race sitting outside of the points before pitting on lap 29 for a set of soft tyres – losing a position to Daniil Kvyat in the process.
Vettel was Ferrari’s sole remaining driver in the race just after half distance when team-mate Charles Leclerc was forced to retire due to an electrical issue.
The four-time world champion asked the Ferrari pit wall via team radio whether he should manage his tyres to attempt a one-stop strategy, having risen to fifth place after cars ahead had pitted for a second time.
Despite being overtaken by Lance Stroll and Carlos Sainz Jr in the closing stages, Vettel was able to hold on to seventh ahead of Red Bull’s Alexander Albon after making his soft tyres last 36 laps.
“It’s quite simple, we didn’t have anything to lose,” Vettel said of the decision to switch to a one-stop strategy.
“We were P11, and I think we were trying to offset until the end of the race, so obviously we were catching the cars in front.
“They pitted for their second stop, but I was not in a rush to catch them and [was] managing the tyres.
“Then I was told to push, which I did, and I was told to make it to the end, or asked if I could make it to the end.
“I said: ‘Well, you could have asked that three laps before because I asked a couple of times, what’s the target, how long do we want to go, so I could look after my tyres’.
“I said we’d try to make it. The last five laps were really, really difficult.
“Obviously it helped that we got lapped to be honest – not always the case, but today it was.
“We obviously took that risk because we had nothing to lose, and it did pay off, but it wasn’t the plan before the race to do close to 40 laps on the softer tyre.”
The result marked Vettel’s second-best finish of the 2020 season to date, following his run to sixth in Hungary last month, after a difficult start to the year.
Vettel has spoken frequently about his struggles with the Ferrari SF1000 car but refused to say there had been a dramatic change despite his points haul.
He explained that his confidence still varied between stints even through the race.
“[It was] mixed, to be honest, still up and down,” Vettel said.
“Some sessions feel better than others.
“The first stint was quite poor, the second stint, I felt much more in control of the car.
“Still I think [there is] some work to do on my side.”