The safety car added much to the 2018 Formula 1 British Grand Prix and the fight between Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas was one of the most thrilling wheel-to-wheel battle seen during the season.
Vettel assumed the race lead from Bottas after pole-sitter Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton dropped down and had the clash with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. From then on, Vettel led all the way until the first safety car on Lap 33.
Ferrari called Vettel and Raikkonen in, but Mercedes left Bottas and Hamilton out – meaning they had track position with Bottas in the lead and Hamilton in third. It was then the dogfight began between Mercedes and Ferrari.
Bottas was on the older medium tyres while Vettel was on the fresh soft compound – but despite that it wasn’t easy for the German to pass through just like that. However, the Finn eventually lost out but not without a fight.
For few laps, Vettel tried as much but couldn’t get through until Lap 46 when the German surprised him with the move in the left-hander taking the inside line. Bottas tried to get back but didn’t have the legs to do so.
“It was quite intense,” he said. “Obviously, I had the advantage on the tyres but he had the clean air so in the high speed stuff I was able to follow, but it was difficult the closer I got and I saw sort of sniffed my chance already.
“And the first laps after the restart out of turn four and then on the Wellington Straight down to turn six, and the final move, obviously I was able to surprise him so I think he thought that I won’t dare (go on) the inside.
“The braking zone was coming quite fast but I thought OK, I have to go for it because I was obviously also struggling… the longer I spent behind him, struggling with my tyres as they got hotter, and losing that advantage that I had a little bit.
“I felt great when I was side by side and wasn’t sure if I would make the corner but I did, so it was great and once I was ahead, obviously I could use that advantage to pull out a gap and control the race from there.
“But it was crucial, it wasn’t easy, they seemed to be very strong on the straights, the mid part of the straights but obviously with DRS and a tow, I was a bit stronger at the end of the straights so it worked. The main thing is that it worked and it felt great,” he explained.
The idea for Vettel was to surprise Bottas with the move since he started to know that his tyres won’t hang on for long as well. He didn’t anticipate that the gap will be that much when he plunged but he took the chance and it worked in the end.
“I had a good exit, I would have liked to have been closer but I wasn’t but I still thought it was good enough to have a shot so I gave it everything and I obviously tried the outside on the run before and he was very late on the brakes and so was I.
“I couldn’t really go anywhere so I thought OK, you can’t do that again and you have to somehow surprise him and the fact that I think that I was a little bit further back and we were close to the braking zone he was covering the inside.
“But then still [he] gave me a little bit of room and that’s what I used to make the move happen and obviously once I was on the inside and I had clean air from the front, the car was great and I could make the corner.
“I wanted to win and I had to go for it. Obviously I think he struggled a little bit more towards the end with his tyres but I wanted to get by as soon as possible and that was the key,” he explained.
Bottas, meanwhile, said he simply didn’t have enough left in his tyres. He then lost the place to Hamilton as well as Raikkonen to drop to fourth but defended well from Ricciardo to not lose any more points.
“I was really trying everything I could to stay ahead and I had to push like qualifying laps to keep ahead and for sure the tyres degrade quicker as well, so I don’t know, I tried my best but was not enough,” he said.