SILVERSTONE, England (Reuters) - Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel said there was no need to panic after seeing his Formula One championship lead slashed to a single point on Sunday.
The German, who felt lucky to see the chequered flag after a penultimate lap puncture at the British Grand Prix, finished seventh with Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton triumphant in front of his home crowd.
“The car is great, it has been fantastic in the race again today,” Vettel told reporters.
“So there is no reason to panic or to worry. But we need to be aware that they (Mercedes) are very quick and there are a couple of advantages that we need to work on. Then it could be a different picture.”
Vettel said the puncture had happened out of the blue.
“It was very sudden,” he said, explaining that he had already dropped the pace and was nursing the car home in third place before the blowout.
“The tyres were going down but nothing out of the ordinary, so it was quite sudden when the tyre decided not to take me to the end of the race,” he added.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen finished third but he too suffered a late tyre problem that forced him to pit while in second place.
Pirelli’s sporting director Mario Isola said the tyre failures were not the same on the two cars and they were investigating.
“What we can exclude is that we had any carcass failure on Kimi’s tyre, because the tyre was still inflated,” he said. “There is a part of the tyre that is damaged and we will investigate deeply on all the tyres.
“Sebastian had a different issue with a loss of air.”
Vettel had already been in damage limitation mode, with Hamilton heading for a dominant victory while he struggled at the start with smoking brakes and then battled with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
The tyre problem changed the picture entirely, leaving him with a fragile lead as he prepares to go to one of Hamilton’s favourite circuits in Hungary.
It could have been a lot worse, however, with Vettel looking at one point like failing to score — an outcome that would have sent Hamilton into the overall lead.
“It could have been a bit better for sure, but a disaster? I don’t think so,” said Vettel, who has won three races this season to Hamilton’s four.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris