Spanish GP: Vettel 'compromised' on opening lap amid Ferrari confusion

Ferrari twice used team orders in the Spanish Grand Prix and Sebastian Vettel was unaware of a strategy change for Charles Leclerc.

Sebastian Vettel ended up slipping behind Max Verstappen into fourth at the Spanish GP.   -  Getty Images

Sebastian Vettel felt his Spanish Grand Prix was compromised by an unsuccessful manoeuvre on the first lap, while he admitted to being unaware Ferrari changed Charles Leclerc's strategy.

Four-time Formula One champion Vettel looked to attack down the outside of Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas into turn one but ran wide and ended up slipping behind Max Verstappen into fourth.

While Hamilton cruised to victory ahead of Bottas as the Silver Arrows sealed a record-tying fifth successive one-two, Ferrari twice deployed team orders as Vettel and Leclerc vied for fourth.

After being told to let Leclerc pass due to a flat spot sustained on his attempted overtake at the start, Vettel was later allowed through when he showed greater pace than his team-mate, who had been put on hard tyres in what appeared to be a switch to a one-stop strategy.

"We talked about it quite a lot on the radio. I was struggling to see stuff and I was also slowed down, so it compromised my first stint," Vettel said of the early tyre damage he sustained.

"After that I think the pace was fine, but from there it was difficult to really come back. The safety car gave us a bit of a chance but we were the same pace as Max so it was impossible to pass."

On the team orders, he said: "We talked about it internally. Inside the car we try to do our own race. In the beginning it was clear Charles was faster and once he was putting more and more pressure on I was happy to let him go.

"[In the] second stint I wasn't aware we were on different strategies for a long time but once it was clear I was let go and I was obviously a lot faster. I tried to put pressure on Max but with the safety car in the end it didn't really matter."

Leclerc saw no issues with the directions given from the garage during the race, despite a safety car being deployed after Lando Norris and Lance Stroll collided, scuppering his chances of success on a one-stop strategy.

"On this race there was absolutely no problems for me," he said. "Obviously in the first stint I was quicker but it's always difficult when a driver behind tells you he is quicker. We always want to be ahead.

"After that they let me pass and I could make my race and after that we swapped again when I was struggling."

Back to drawing board

Ferrari team chief Mattia Binotto conceded that its updates package had failed in Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix, but pledged to work harder to ensure a fight-back against dominant Mercedes.

Binotto said the changes made to the Ferrari car had not worked after watching Lewis Hamilton beat Valtteri Bottas in Mercedes' record fifth consecutive season-opening 1-2 finish.

“For us, it was a lesson, but also a stimulus to do better,” said Binotto. “It was not a good afternoon. Nor a good week. Congratulations to Mercedes who have worked a lot and well, but for us this must be a stimulus to work harder.

“The updates we brought were not enough. It was a bad defeat that we will analyse in the next two days of testing. And, we won't give up.”

After five of this year's 21 races, Ferrari are already 96 points behind Mercedes in the constructors' championship.

In Sunday's race, a mixture of muddled team strategy, tyre issues and imperfect pit-stops left both Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc struggling to match the pace of Mercedes and third-placed Max Verstappen of Red Bull.

Four-time champion Vettel, widely expected to be a title contender, is 48 points adrift of Hamilton in the drivers' title race and has yet to finish in the top two this year.

After Sunday's race in which he made a strong start, but flat-spotted his tyres locking up at Turn One, he said he did not know what the team's tactics were during the race.

“We will talk about it internally, but inside the car we try to do our own race.

“In the beginning, it was clear Charles was faster so when he was putting on more and more pressure I was happy to let him go.

“But, in the second stint, I wasn't aware we were on different strategies for a long time.

“Then, once it was clear I was let go and I was obviously a lot faster. I tried to put pressure on Max, but with the safety car in the end it didn't matter.”