Vettel: Verstappen triggered first corner clash at Spa

Sebastian Vettel managed to finish in sixth place in the Belgian Grand Prix, but he was nonetheless left wondering what more might have been if not for the first lap incident at La Source between himself, Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonen, and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

The three cars tried to go through the apex of the hairpin side-by-side and there simply wasn’t room for them all. The question of who was to blame was hotly contested in pit lane, but ultimately all three lost out in terms of their final result.

“I think we got some points today but not as much as we should have, that’s a fair summary,” said Vettel. “With a normal race I think we had the pace to finish second and third.

“My car was damaged and I think Kimi’s car was damaged so it wasn’t ideal that we couldn’t see the true pace but it was still very strong, strong enough to recover.

“Basically the footplate area was completely gone, so it felt quite bad when I restarted at the back of the pack after Turn 1 and I was sure that there was damage that we at least had to have a look.

“I think there was probably something that fell off and it was sort of OK when we came in to check the car. We were lucky to continue because the hit was quite big, we were lucky we didn’t have a puncture as well. For sure not ideal, afterwards the pace was good but the car was damaged.”

As for the incident that caused the damage, Vettel explained that it was triggered by Verstappen’s late lunge down the inside into La Source at the start of the race..

“I had a very good start, I think the best start from the people who were in front of me, I was P2 leading into [turn 1],” he explained. “Nico was ahead but I was right behind on the outside leading the way into the first corner.

“I could hardly see Kimi because I was more than half a car length ahead when I turned in and to be honest he was already in the blind spot,” he added. “Max from all the way back was trying to dive back on the inside.

“The problem is that you can’t fit three cars in that corner and the inside one of these is able to trigger trouble on the outside which Kimi and myself suffered from.

“I was the leading car of that group, I turned in and Kimi had no chance to avoid, he’s basically sandwiched and squeezed in the middle because he has the car on the right and a car on the left. He sees me, he sees Max, as I said I hardly saw Kimi as I was ahead so he disappears on the right.

“I only found out afterwards that there was Max trying to go on the inside and that is impossible for me to see. The result is that there was no way I think he could make the corner and unfortunately then we all three had contact and especially between Kimi and myself obviously it’s the last thing you want to do.

“With hindsight it’s easy: if I’d turned in later or gone wider only those two would make contact and I get away with it.”

Vettel had to pit at the end of the first lap, but a subsequent safety car and red flag enabled Ferrari to gradually bring Vettel back into contention as the race wore on, despite lingering damage to his car and another hard-fought encounter with Verstappen which left Vettel less than happy with the younger driver’s defensive driving.

“I like him, he’s aggressive and I think that’s a strength for him, but certain movements especially under braking which I faced when I was racing with him I don’t think are correct.”

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