Sebastian Vettel has denied that he was desperate to overtake Max Verstappen for third place during the Japanese Grand Prix. The German attempted to pass the Red Bull driver into the Spoon curve but made contact, spinning him around and sending him to the back of the grid.
The four-time world champion recovered to finish in sixth place behind the Mercedes', Red Bulls and this teammate Kimi Raikkonen. But despite dropping to 67 points behind championship rival Lewis Hamilton, Vettel says he doesn't regret making the move.
“I don’t regret the move,” he told Sky F1. “Obviously with that outcome you would do different because with hindsight it’s always different. But inside the car, the gap was there, his battery was clipping, I was boosting, I saved my battery, I had more speed, I would make the corner, I was side-by-side and he didn’t give enough room and we touched.”
Vettel doesn't believe that he was to blame for the incident, and cited Verstappen's aggressiveness by mentioning the previous altercation with Raikkonen on lap 1. Verstappen locked up at the final chicane and rejoined the track, pushing Raikkonen wide.
“I was obviously pushing to get past but I wasn’t desperate to get past,” said Vettel. “I knew he had a penalty but I also felt that we were faster. And then he was clipping on that straight with the battery and I was catching, I had a good exit. Obviously the Safety Car helped to be closer.
“The gap was there but as soon as he saw me obviously he defended. But I had the inside. As soon as he realised somebody is close or next to him he tries to, in my opinion, push when you shouldn’t push any more. I mean look at Kimi: he’s off the track and he comes back and if Kimi just drives on they collide.
"But it’s not always right that the other guy has to move. We’re all racing, the race is long, for me the gap was there otherwise I don’t do it. I think I got through the whole field without any trouble, sometimes closer, sometimes with more margin. It’s normal that sometimes it gets close but I think you need to always leave a space. In that case I couldn’t go anywhere and then we touched."
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing