Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Suzuka, 2016

Vettel: Blue flags harmed battle with Hamilton

2016 Japanese Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel says lapped cars cost him several seconds in his fight with Lewis Hamilton in the Japanese Grand Prix.

The Ferrari driver was one of several who repeatedly complained on the radio about the slower cars failing to respond to blue flags.

Start, Suzuka, 2016
2016 Japanese Grand Prix in pictures
Vettel told reporters he had been frustrated as Hamilton had caught the traffic on the straights while he was held up by them in the corners.

“I lost three or four seconds with Lewis just across the blue flags,” said Vettel after the race. “I had them sitting in front of me in the sections with a lot of corners.”

“Some of it, sure, was subjective, you don’t really see the full picture and other people lose time as well. Sometimes you lose, sometimes you win in these situations and I think today we weren’t the luckiest ones. But in the end it didn’t really matter.”

Vettel said he had “one shot” to re-pass Hamilton but the Mercedes was much stronger. “If you look at the gap at the end they were quite far ahead of us. We just had more tyre degradation to fight with than what we expected.”

After finishing fourth, Vettel said it had been a “positive weekend” for the team. “Obviously with the penalties for both of us it was harsh because you start out of position.”

“We managed to come back, then it looked like a podium for the majority. But we wanted second place, we didn’t want to sit back and seal third, we wanted second place.”

“That’s why we, when Max [Verstappen] pitted very early, to go on another set of hard tyres, we decided to stay out. I think it was the right thing to do. Unfortunately the tyres at the end didn’t hold up as much as we hoped for.”

2016 Japanese Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 27 comments on “Vettel: Blue flags harmed battle with Hamilton”

    1. Mostly what cost him was Ferrari strategy calls. If they did a good job on that, those blue flags would cost Hamilton instead.

      1. Vettel is going for the “complainer of the year” title. Maybe he should start to race better with less mistakes ..

        1. Like he did today?

        2. All drivers complaint, Kimi did, Vettel did, Verstappen did…all…

          Maybe you should try to start understanding this.

        3. I did hear him saying in an interview after the race that he didn’t really want to blame the drivers who he had to pass, mentioning it just is hard to make room on this track and it is hard to spot where to go when you hit a string of cars.

          But sure enough the airwaves were full of complaints today

    2. Me thinks Marchionne’s going to sack few of them from strategy clique after the season.

      1. They will have “unearned” their place on the team ☺

    3. Ferrari should have clung on to Ruth Buscombe.

      1. @phylyp
        She’s no longer with them, she joined Haas and then Sauber. I don’t know if this is part of a technical partnership or not.

        1. @tifoso1989 – True. I meant that they should have kept her with Ferrari in the first place, instead of lending her to Haas in the first instance, seeing the strategy calls made by both teams in the Australian GP. Whomever is running the strategy at Ferrari doesn’t seem to be at her level.

          1. @phylyp
            I don’t think the problem lies with strategy engineers themselves, because their job is to give a range of possible strategy and estimate the best one a that time with the help of software.
            The problem lies with whoever takes or validate the decision because software cannot estimate many variables how much performance Mercedes,Red Bull… have in their bags.
            Today we saw Singapore bis (which was Barcelona bis BTW which itself was Australia bis which …..) with different drivers, in Singapore Raikkonen made a superb move on Hamilton when the latter was struggling with the brakes, then the team decided to stop Raikkonen even though Mercedes went for the undercut in a track when overtaking is extremely difficult. At least the decision of not pitting will give Raikkonen the chance to defend from Hamilton at the end of the race but instead they landed the place to a driver named Hamilton and driving a Mercedes in clean air in order to get it back after the pit in a track like Singapore.
            We saw in Malaysia how faster the Mercedes can go in clean air with those special engine modes, Rosberg was able to build a gap of more than 10s from Raikkonen in 5/6 laps from the moment his pitwall told him to push.
            Today they did the same thing, the person who until now didn’t figured out that track position is king this year should be sacked.

            1. @tifoso1989 – fair point. I used the term strategy engineer / race strategist as a convenient shorthand for the group of people on the pitwall and elsewhere who are involved in the decision, not a specific person.

              Then again, there is a leader in there who’s responsible for staffing this group, and ensuring a coherent strategy is formed – by combining the strategy computer’s output with human input. And I think it is there that you and I are agreed that this person needs a firm kick up the backside.

    4. Wasn’t Vettel 1.8 sec behind Verstappen just before Max made his final stop? He was slowly eating away at that gap.
      Did Ferrari feel it was just impossible to pass Verstappen on track?

      1. @ivz

        Yes he was. And at that point Ferrari should have gone for the undercut. Vettel would have been second and Hamilton might not have been able to get on the podium.

        1. @Baron: Agree, instead they failed and waited and pitted Vettel at a time, where it must have been foreseeable that he would come right out into a lot of traffic, which not only ruined his chances of catching Ves, but also made it possible for Ham to pass him. And then we saw that the Merc is more than the difference between the soft and the hard tyre better than the Ferrari on this track. Sad to see Ferrari let VET down, when he actually drove a very good race.

          1. Please don’t tag the untaggable! @palle

    5. Sorry Seb. You are too whiner for me. And there too many racing incidents with you since 2014, especially this year, that proved you are just a mediocrity. I’ve lost all my respect.

      1. Yep, Vettel isn’t as good as people think. Definitely overrated.

      2. I’ll pass it on to him. I’m sure he’ll be very upset to hear it.

        1. Good to know. I’ll be sleeping relieved from now on.

      3. This site’s comments is turning into http://www.espnstar.com (circe 5-6 years ago)

      4. Yeah, winning driver of the year in 2015 wasn’t special – voted by fans on this very site.

        But let’s not forget, if Hamilton cannot seal 3 WDC in a row in the most dominant car in history she will be instantly rated below Vettel (who sealed 4 in a row BTW, against real competition).

    6. I think that Ferrari was the second force behind Mercedes this weekend, their qualification and race pace especially in the early stages showed this, their car was slightly better than the Red Bull, which didn’t really count after the penalities.

      As for the tyres choice… If they fit anything else than soft, Vettel still comes out behind Hamilton, but with zero chance to land an attack manouvre. Even if Vettel could have been able to make the move, the huge time difference until the end suggest that Hamilton could have easily catch him later and relegate back to fourth. Vettels chances could have come in the first few laps of the fresh softs, but after he made a mistake in the chicane, Hamilon wasn’t in sight anymore. A hard or medium compound a few laps earlier could have proved better.

      I can understand the blue flag situation, it must have been frustrating for both the leaders as well as the backmarkers. The track is really fast with high-speed corners, simply there aren’t many places to let the leaders by without slowing down extremely and losing valuable time against the on-track rivals. And as all 22 drivers reached the finish, the battle for positions was really fierce outside the point zone as well. The blue flags might have cost time for Vettel, as they did for Hamilton, and considering the overall gap, it wasn’t the decisive factor.

      With all the respect for a four time world champion, I still believe that Vettel still has a lot to improve driving efficiently in traffic. Driving from pole to win, like in his Red Bull era meant that he drives in an empty space, in which he excelled really. But nowadays he has to start from inside the pack, has to fight his way forward, and that would make everyone even more prone to errors. one can argue how he gained places today or back in Singapore when he accomélished a recovery drive, but he only exploited his better car, newer and softer tyres, that’s all.

    7. This is just ridiculous as RIC’s excuse.

    8. Big issue is Ferrari’s terrible strategy calls. How many times this season have they handed track position to their rivals on a plate? Twice today alone. Mercedes are ridiculously fast and you will never beat them on pace – but Max showed that you can keep one behind you for a while.

    9. The startegy guy at Ferrari is called ‘Blue Flags’….strange name.

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